Posted on November 5, 2016
Each year, the 1st-5th grades create a self-portrait from observation. There is nothing more intimidating in art than to look in a mirror and try to draw someone that looks like you -- this rings true for both children and adults! For that reason, each of our projects this year have been slowly building up to this challenge.
Last entry, I wrote about the 1st/2nd gradesʻ problem-solving using one, long line, making them be more confident risk-takers. We also began to practice looking closely at what we see through some looking games, like this one below, and then tried to draw what we saw outside in one, long line. We then experimented in watercolor, revisiting techniques that some may remember from Kindergarten, and painted our outdoor drawings. This week, we put all those pieces together and began drawing our self-portraits.
I shared some of my history of self-portrait drawing with students, showing them some of my earlier self-portraits and then letting them see the process over time and how they changed. I also helped show students where I start with this daunting task. I asked them, "Should I make my head more like a circle, or more like an oval? Don't forget to look at the shape!" "Are my eyes round?" To which they responded, "No! my family calls them little footballs."
Perhaps most challenging is getting all the sizing and placement right. I then shared with students how I use roadmaps and looking in the mirror to figure out where everything goes. "How do I know where my eyebrows should go? Oh, I know, because they're just peeking under my bangs." "How about my ears? Where should they start? Hmm, when I look, they seem to line up with my eyes." By teaching these anchor points, students are encouraged to draw from what they really see, rather than what they think they should look like. This conversation resulted in some portraits that really do have the unique attritubes of the artists! Next week, we will use our watercolor skills to paint our portraits.
The 3rd and 4th graders are going through a similiar process -- practicing observing through games as well as long-line drawing challenges. They, too, will begin their self-portrait process soon. They were also introduced to the idea of portraiture by visiting different activity centers around the room that exposed them to a variety of portrait artists and techniques.
The 5th grade continue to work on their animations. The medium seems to be a creative well with limitless possibilities of creativity.