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.

Lesson: Monogrammed Sketchbook Cover

As mentioned in my Bad Hair Day post, the structure of this year's Art Survey curriculum changed.  We really wanted to make the sketchbook covers FIRST (last year we did them after the first quarter as mentioned in my post about the Elements and Identity Sketchbook Cover).  This was great because I got to see what my kids can do, how they follow directions, and they end up with a product that is their own style and protects their sketchbooks for the remainder of the year (hopefully)!  

We were inspired by this little find on the interwebs... but as I had already planned on the Bad Hair Day project, I didn't want to do something too similar.  We decided to use this as Unit 1:  Media!  We explored various types of media, compositional techniques, positive and negative space, and contrast.  

We devised this media exploration by making 2"x 2" mini samples of each technique that we discussed (markmaking, text, collage, watercolor- wash, graded wash, color bleed, ink blow, stamp/stipple, spatter), and then larger 12" x 9" for students to use to for their project (what I like to call the Media Pages).

This is my finished example...
Then, once we had all these Media Pages in our bank, students chose a font from a packet we gave them, and what initials or letters and size they wanted to use to create their cover.  I printed out the letters for the students, then showed them how to do a graphite transfer of their letters onto their media page of choice.  Students learned how to precisely cut out their letters using scissors and excellent craftsmanship.  They glued either the positive or negative space of pages together and included a border.  Lastly, we laminated the covers using packing tape.  (We also added their name plates from the beginning of the year as bookmarks, and little tabs to the sides of the pages for each unit... you might notice those too!)

Some challenges:  Contrast... even though we talked about contrast a TON (warm/cool colors, light/dark values, color/no color, texture, size, etc.), you will notice that not all students really applied that.  
Border:  not all students put in a border, but others adapted the idea of a border, which I also accepted.  

In general this was a great project and I would definitely do it again.  Students seemed really engaged in creating these.  

Here are some student examples!

Lesson: Bad Hair Day (Line and Shape)

A change in curriculum structure:
You may have read about the way we structured our Art Survey course last year in my post about the Identity Sketchbook Cover.  After looking at the pros and cons of this intense structure (1 Element of Art each week),  I wanted to develop a less intense path.  While I felt like my students really got to know the Elements really well last year, I just felt that it was a lot of work for both me and my students (which isn't a bad thing, necessarily).  I also really wanted some more major pieces of art along the way (especially for the All-City Art Show, which we need to have artwork for by January).  So, instead, we structured the curriculum to focus on a few Elements at a time, with the same idea of using the sketchbook for notes and exercises, and then applying those together into a piece of artwork.  

Our first Elements of Art were Line and Shape.  Specifics that we focused on were:  organic, geometric, line weight, and the differences between line and shape (of course).  I found some really great projects on the interwebs, and then I modified them for our goals and expectations.  

So here is the morph:  I love the scratchboard lesson I posted a while ago (one stolen from a plan on the incredible art site- that lesson seems to no longer be there) using cut out images of people/heroes/etc, and then morphing the body and background into art nouveau or art deco styles.  

Then, as I was searching for some sub lesson ideas one day, I came across this "Bad Hair Day" idea...  where you take your own drawn portrait and give yourself a new bad or crazy hairdo.  

I also ran into ZENTANGLES!  These are pretty awesome and along the same line (no pun intended).

Then... they had a baby... and WA-LA!

The best of both worlds... PLUS a fun little reading to help teach our students the annotation expectations... BINGO BANGO!  I'm a genius!  (A thief, but also a genius!)  

 Line and Shape:  Bad Hair Day 

Again, Matt and I ended up in slightly different directions by the end of this piece, which was really exciting, actually!  

Before working on this project, I gave the students a short little article about Bad Hair Days and how it affects us (even celebrities!).  We went through the annotation expectations (our school wide initiative in regards to literacy) and then there were a few questions that the students had to answer on their own (and then share!).  What was fun about this, besides getting to know my students a little better, was that it was a great way to segue into the project.  "So, why do you think we are reading about Bad Hair Days?"  

The Project:
1.  Find a good quality image of your hero or someone you look up to.  (This project was done on 12" x 18" paper, so really the kids stuck to portraits and not so much full body.)
2.  In sketchbook, students created 3 thumbnail sketches of the composition and type of hair style.  In my case, the students could create EITHER a geometric hair style OR an organic hair style.  Discussion on Compositional Techniques.  Students had to have the thumbnails approved by me and I signed my initials by the one design they liked the best and were going to move forward with.  Then I gave them a sheet of paper (or allowed them to take one from the table).
3.  Precisely cut out the person using scissors with EXCELLENT CRAFTSMANSHIP (showed the students how to use scissors... sounds weird, but it's something you just have to do), EXCLUDING the person's hair.  This can be tricky depending on the photo- sometimes the hair is draping across shoulders or what not.  Also, 'tis the time to really talk about what craftsmanship means.  
4.  Glue the portrait to the paper using EXCELLENT craftsmanship.  
5.  Draw the outline of the hair using pencil.  
6.  Break up the INSIDE of the hairstyle into corresponding shapes using pencil.  For example, if the hairdo is geometric, then the shapes inside need to be geometric (best way to easily determine if students understand the difference between geometric and organic).
7.  Students trade in ID for a fine sharpie.  They will use a thick line weight to outline the hairdo, and a medium line weight to outline the shapes inside.
8.  Students trade in ID for an ultra fine sharpie and may then begin line designs inside the shapes- though the lines also need to be corresponding with geometric or organic.  They can use different line weights if they want, but should use the ultra fine sharpie OR a pen works great, too!  
9.  The background should be broken into the OPPOSITE shapes (if hair is geometric, the background should be organic).  Using medium line weight, outline in sharpie.  (The only outline that is a thick line weight is the outline of the hair.  
10.  The background shapes should be filled in with corresponding lines types using a light line weight in ultra fine sharpie or pen.  

If students had more time or wanted to embellish when finished, I suggested to them to use colors either in the background OR the hair.  Often, it was easy to suggest unifying the hair to the portrait by using a color that was in the portrait.  For example, if the portrait had a red shirt on, then maybe using red or warm colors in the hair will tie the piece together and draw emphasis to the portrait.

I also had the students write a short essay (based on prompts) about why they chose their particular hero and how a bad hair day would affect their hero.  

*Please note:  I didn't have time to crop and size all images properly.  Forgive me?  I think you get the idea...

Matt's students had the option of creating a background with the contrasting line designs, OR cutting out their portrait and hair and pasting it onto a contrasting background all together.  I love the variation between ours and just gives us more ideas or options for future modification (time, skill levels, etc).  Here are some examples of what his students did...