Sunday, February 20, 2011

Self-Portraits (1st and 2nd)

The following self-portrait images were created using tempera paint on white poster board.  This project can be found in How to Teach Art to Children. (I bought the book years ago when I first started teaching art in schools and needed someplace to begin! I still love these self-portraits. This project helps students understand that art is a process that can't always be whipped out in ten minutes - or even one class period - and young artists are always delighted with the results and glad they didn't rush it.)

After studying two or three of van Gogh's paintings and discussing his painting technique and use of color, students draw their self-portrait in pencil, paint it with tempera (a little white glue mixed in thickens the paint nicely), then outline the portrait in black marker to create the dark outlines. The background is prepared separately by cutting tissue paper and creating a collage of analogous colors on another piece of poster board (or any other combination of three colors: warm, cool, primaries, secondaries, monochromatic, complementary values, etc). The portrait is then cut out and glued on top of the background.
This technique is intended to loosely mimic van Gogh's use of bold colors, broad brush strokes (impasto), and bold contour lines in his paintings. Depending on how long a class period is, this project can take 5-7 days.

  • Two pieces of poster/tag board per student, cut to be the same size (I usually cut a standard size poster board in half, so one poster board per student will do it. However, for the portraits below I used donated tag board that was pre-cut to about 18"x18".)
  • Pencils
  • Tempera paint
  • Brushes (large and small)
  • Black markers
  • Tissue paper in a variety of colors (I cut it into 1" strips and let them cut shorter lengths)
  • Scissors (or students can tear the tissue paper instead)
  • White school glue (Glue sticks work, as well, but I like to have students paint over the tissue paper once it's on the board so there's a nice flat finish and there are no loose ends flopping about.)

  • Day 1: Show examples of van Gogh's work; discuss the artist, impasto, use of color, etc.
  • Day 2: Discuss facial proportions, "bust"; Draw self-portrait in pencil on one piece of poster board
  • Day 3: Paint self-portrait; be sure to allow paint to be thick...there should be raised texture, just as in van Gogh's paintings
  • Day 4: Trace drawing with black marker (I tell students to trace anything was drawn in pencil.)
  • Days 5 & 6: Create background collage with tissue paper (This may take 2 days because of the time it takes to let children choose their three colors - plus, we review the color wheel and talk about analogous colors. It also just takes time to get all of that paper glued down! I recommend having paper clips on hand, or sandwich bags, to keep loose tissue paper together for day 2 of gluing. I have the kids clip their tissue together and lay it on top of their background so we know whose is whose.)
  • Day 7: Cut out self-portrait and glue to background; Trim any "hanging" tissue paper from edges of background (I encourage students not to place their self-portrait smack in the middle of the it to one side or even let it fall off of one side and trim it!)
(I adapt this project for kindergarten by having them work much smaller (9"x12" at the largest) and having them color their portrait in crayon and outline in marker. For kinder artists, the project takes three days: 1 - Look at van Gogh's work/Draw self-portrait in pencil/Color with crayon; 2 - Create background collage; 3 - Trace self-portrait pencil lines in marker/Cut out and glue to background.)

    Artist: Dyanna, 1st grade

    Artist: John, 2nd grade

    Artist: Kevin, 2nd grade

    Artist: Lara, 2nd grade

    Artist: Leandro, 2nd grade

    Artist: Parker, 2nd grade

    Artist: Stephanie, 2nd grade

    Artist: Tyler, 2nd grade

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