Oh, how I love Facebook! OK, this sounds like the beginning of a Dr. Seuss book. But I really do like it, plus I love that art teachers are always willing to share their ideas, lessons and photos. I won’t lie, I got this project from a post I saw a few months ago and decided to try it.
I USUALLY START the school year off with drawing, move toward painting, printmaking, and end the year with 3D art. I myself am not an illustrator and drawing is not my strong point, but the more you do it, the better you get. So, I started one of my own, showed the kids, and then tried to get buy-in from my seventh- and eighth-grade students. They were very excited to try this new self-portrait.
First I had them pose against the wall holding a big eraser in one hand against their face. I asked them to pose in a few different ways: serious, funny, wacky and any other way they wished. They loved this part of the project.
I printed out the photos in black and white on regular printer paper and they chose the one they were going to work with. I cut the photo in half and asked them to cut their hand and eraser out. They then glued the half of their face without the hand on the paper and cut out the hand and eraser and glued it on the other half of the paper.
BEFORE THE ACTUAL PROJECT BEGAN, they create a value scale. They drew a 1″ x 10″ rectangle in their sketchbooks and divided it into 1-inch squares. They left the first square blank (white) and had to gradually make each square just a bit darker until they got to square 10, which was totally black. I had them make the value scales as they were going to have to match values in the drawing they would be doing.
I was really surprised that the kids got so into this project. Last year I tried doing self-portraits with them and the students were very frustrated and gave up easily. This year, even though I have a few of the same students, they loved it.
In their reflections of the project, one of my kiddos named Emma said, “It was much better than just looking in a mirror and just drawing ourselves, because we had a side reference. And we could choose the photo we wanted.”
The students really took their time and instead of just drawing to get finished, they worked on each part of the portrait with real intent. They even helped each other, asked for advice, and had no problem reworking areas.
One thing I noticed that they finally caught on to was starting a drawing by drawing lightly! They never used to do it. I actually had to tell students to add more dark values. Some found it difficult to match the values, but after much hard work, they succeeded. I was extremely proud of a handful of students who have progressed so much since last year.
A few kids mentioned they really liked this project and that it was fun. Talia reflected that, “This project is better than just looking at yourself in the mirror because when it is on paper and in half I can see how big and wide my lips or head is. Also, since it was in black and white I could see all the highlights I needed to do and the shading.”
THIS IS A GREAT PROJECT for all grade levels. Even the younger kids can start learning about value and self-portraits. After trying to teach traditional self-portraits with mirrors for many years, I found that the students did a better job by having that frame of reference—the other half of their face. “It was much easier because we didn’t have to keep looking in a mirror then drawing and going back and forth,” Jenessa said.
I think now that they understand the values better and really looking and drawing what they see, not what they think they see, I feel more comfortable with teaching a second lesson on self-portraits the more traditional way. Another possibility is to have the students draw each other or bring in a photo of a family member. Pets next? Who knows?!
Middle school students will …
• create a self-portrait.
• use at least 10 values in their portrait.
• use scale and proportion.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Creating: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
• PRESENTING: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.
• RESPONDING: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.
• Assortment of drawing pencils
• Vinyl eraser
• 9″ x 12″ white paper
• Digital camera/printer
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
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