One of the most important mandates that secondary schools in Canada have is to ensure that young adults understand their role in the community.
When Ottawa Education Programs Officer, Olga Zeale, contacted our art department about a special project to highlight Canadian Archives Awareness Week, I knew our students would enthusiastically embrace the task, which they did.
To meet the criteria required for this exhibit, the 11th-grade graphic-design class, with students in the Communication & Design FOCUS group, worked on a series of 50 portraits that presented a panorama of personalities that spent a significant part of their lives in our nation’s capital, Ottawa.
In some cases the subjects were assigned, while other students asked if they could work on portraits that had personal or cultural significance to them. The students were asked to integrate some of the elements attributed to their subject.
The finished work shows a wide variety of techniques and styles. Merivale’s art department has embraced an approach to information graphics that brings some of the “craft” back to the art world.
Students were encouraged to experiment with watercolor, pastels, pencil crayons, acrylics, collage, ink, and even oil bars, on these terrific pieces. We do this without turning our back on the latest computer software and image-enhancing technologies, which were also used when necessary.
The portraits include prominent athletes, actors, writers, artists, musicians, politicians, clergy, scientists, philanthropists, astronauts and social activists that had a connection to the city. Among the most popular artworks was the very impressive watercolor study of Olympic figure-skating champion Barbara Ann Scott, created by Nadia.
Amar’s wonderful portrait of photographer Yousuf Karsh featured a three-dimensional element to give the illusion of a camera with an inverted, backwards image of the artist mounted in the faux lens.
Well over 200 people attended the impressive “vernissage” (private viewing), organized for the students and their parents at the Canadian Archives’ gallery. The city of Ottawa also helped promote the event with invitations, posters and a Facebook page. A special Face2Face poster that included every portrait in the show was printed with the help of Kerry Thompson at the IDP Group’s Renfrew, Ontario plant.
For most of the students, this represented their first opportunity to show their work in a gallery and interact with the public. It was a terrific experience.
High-school students will …
• create a thematic piece for a community/city sponsored event.
• choose an appropriate subject to respond to client demands.
• experiment with a variety of media when planning their portrait.
• research their subject to find support material to give some context to the portrait.
• participate in a “vernissage” and discuss their work with the public.
• Canvas paper works best for the portrait, as it does not buckle with the wet media.
• A wide variety of traditional media—brushes, crayons, pastels, acrylic paint, pencil crayons, pastels and inks
• Internet access for source material
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Irv Osterer is Department Head – Fine Arts and Technology at Merivale High School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.