Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lesson: Value Self Portraits

What's more loved by students than creating with their celebrities?  Creating with THEMSELVES of course!  Oh, love that self portrait.  This project focuses on the Element of Art... VALUE.  

Dick Blick's Example
Inspiration grabbed and nabbed from Dick Blick's Torn Paper Portraits.  I loved this idea, I tried it on my own (though sort of while teaching it... TIP:  always try these ahead of time if possible... which in my case wasn't so possible), and it did not work out how I wanted it to.  I mean, it looked ok, but for an Art Survey course, I thought that it wasn't giving me the clearest of results and I thought my students would find this too challenging and frustrating.  So I modified it... as I do with most of my inspired projects that I borrow (steal?).  In my example, you will see where I changed my mind.  

I started with the torn collage, then changed to paint here as you can see in the hand.  I also realized that we have some pretty crappy brushes, so I purchased three sets of nice, soft acrylic brushes and
the students had better success.
(Originally, students would be given pieces of paper, then paint each paper a different tint/shade, and then tear those papers and apply them to the value number on their portrait.  In the Dick Blick lesson, they use acetate, but we don't have the money for that, so I had the students transfer their portraits to a larger paper.  Plus, we don't have the money to print out large portraits for the students to use, so they had to transfer to the larger scale... a skill I find important anyway.)

The Process:  
I happened to be absent right before starting this project, so I came up with this the night before and gave it as sub work.  It was great to see what the students did... a good baseline to see what students had difficulties with or did well at, since I used the exact process (though a photo of ME, their favorite teacher, of course!) that they would be doing shortly.  


My bad example- not done in our
make-shift studio, but in my house
with the computer camera... ugh!
1.  In class, set up a little portrait studio with a background, a work light, and your digital camera, and a stool.  
2.  Show a powerpoint on portraits and expression.
3.  Give students a little handout prompt that asks them to choose the following:  a.  emotion, b. point of view, c.  description of expression, d.  expressive color choice.
4.  Take their photo (this is really fun, most of the time...). 
5.  YOU need to manipulate their photos in photoshop- Changed to Black and White only, and then I used the cutout filter.  I also took into consideration which student portrait I was manipulating and tried to make it more complicated or less depending on the individual.  

WHILE students are taking photos, others can...
Practice the grid transfer process.  In this case, we did a large group grid transfer first (where each student gets a little square of an image to copy using only pencil and ebony pencil to shade) before even starting this project.  So at this point, students chose one of two images (Beyonce or Derrick Rose) to transfer using the grid transfer process into their sketchbooks. 

1.  Print out the students' photos with a grid overlaid. 
2.  Students grid out their 12" x 18" paper using instructions given and demonstration.
3.  Students transfer the SHAPES of the values they see.  This part was actually very difficult and took a lot of demonstration and individual help.  I might see if there is a better way to deliver the photos for the students... 
They should ONLY transfer shapes within their portrait- not the background.
4.  Have them label each SHAPE with a value number 1-5 (1 being near white, 5 being near black)
5.  They should then erase the grid lines on the entire piece to the best of their ability.  Otherwise this will show through their paint or their awesome drawings.


Group students by their chosen expressive color.  As a team, they mix the 5 different values (tints and shades) of acrylic paint into pots.  This will be for them to share as a team while they paint their value portraits.  Students should label their pots 1-5.
Students will begin painting in their different value shapes of their portrait using the labeled pots.
I gave the students a little strip that had boxes on it in which they would paint in the tints/shades of their color.  They could use this as reference and also in case they needed to mix more paint. 

Students were allowed to do ANYTHING in the background as long as it was shades of value- no color.  

-Grid transfer of the values shapes was the most difficult part.  I would consider finding a different way to manipulate the photo to make it easier for them- maybe a filter that only does the outlines of the value shapes?  To help with this in the meantime, I used a red pen and traced over some of the outlines of shapes for students.  That seemed to really help them see, and we didn't have to outline after the first few examples.  
-If you have poor quality acrylic brushes, as most schools do, then this will be tricky as well.  I had to purchase new brushes for the lesson that I bought with my own money.  
-Many of the base acrylic paint colors need more than one coat of paint.  
-Drawing lightly with the pencil- both grid lines and actual drawing!

Modifications:  Matt's class didn't end up painting theirs, so he had them shade in their portraits using pencil.  I don't think he even did a filter on their portraits- just straight up photos.  You can then do an expressive color background using paint or collaging too.  There are a lot of potential adaptations here!

Here are some student examples!
More examples to come...

Exhibited at the Chicago Public Schools All City Art Competition 2012-13
Exhibited at the Chicago Public Schools All City Art Competition 2012-13

This student shaded in his values
to help him stay on track with the grid. 
Students did not need to do this, but some
found it helpful when transferring. 

This student also shaded in his values
to help him stay on track with the grid.
Students did not need to do this, but some
found it helpful when transferring. This is
could be a really cool look as is, then
modifying the background by tints/shades
of a color.

Student paints in their tints/shades swatch strip
that gets glued into their sketchbook.  This serves
as reference and also in case more paint needs
to be mixed, it would need to match their
value swatch strip.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Janet. Where did you buy the cool paint sets? I tried this project and the kids loved it, but paint storage was a problem. I would love to invest in some. Thanks! I love your blog! Peter