THIS IS LONG. Sorry, I just wanted to give all steps, language to use with your students, and any helpful hints I could share along the way.
I have been creating curriculum for Studio 4 Art and our teachers for over 17 years now. I can't believe it has been so many years, and every year I am adding (or some of my very talented artist teachers) new projects and techniques to our line up. I LOVE coming up with interactive, fun, creative, new, contemporary ways to intrigue all ages to create! While someday very soon I will be licensing many of our curriculum how to's for more to share with their community, I wanted to give you a glimpse into one of my all time FAVORITES.
My approach to every art lesson is to give the child as much of a voice as possible. Art for art's sake has always been what has ignited my passion for teaching. For this reason, although there are steps to this project, every child should represent work that shows their individuality, character, and a celebration of who they are right now.
- Working on 11x14 sheet of nice paper (thick enough not to tear when wet), or 11x14 canvas board, or 11x14 raw canvas
- stiff brushes for gluing down paper.
- Mod Podge or clear acrylic gesso for glue. This also creates a great painting surface for acrylic.
For the background we begin with things that "excite our eyes" while using recycled material (newspaper, torn books, maps, magazines). We discuss why we enjoy looking at art, what draws our eye into investigating further. This gets our students engaged in the process of what personal choices they have for creating art, what matters to them, and what we would want the viewers of our own work to "notice". After our brief discussion about art, we begin to collage pieces of paper, gluing each new piece onto our canvas (or paper). Creating a background in this way creates a place of meaning to each artist, as what they cut or tear out to place in their backgrounds are words, pictures, or color that represent them. Being mindful of what they like and what makes them unique.
After our backgrounds are complete, it is time to move on to how to draw a face. This doesn't have to represent them necessarily, it is the basic drawing process in all faces. When we go to paint, we begin to look into our mirrors and represent all the beauty that makes us, US.
With a piece of sketch paper, pencil and eraser we begin the step-by-step process. Don't worry for those that don't like step process oriented art, this is just an age appropriate step that give children the power of knowledge. What they do with this knowledge is still theirs to interpret.
- Sketch an oval (talk about shape here. ovals are circles that have been stretched). Have this oval be close to the size of the 8x10 sheet of paper. Practicing drawing large is a good exercise too, and they will be painting large onto their backgrounds too. Talk about how to draw large, "Do we draw with our wrists to create a large shape". Have them try with their hands in the air. Then have them draw in the air an oval shape using their elbows, how big can that get. Then finally to drawing using their shoulder, "now how large can you draw that oval?!"
- Because we are giving children the power of knowledge, we will be teaching perspective and where each feature is located on human faces. Our next steps are creating a grid of where features are placed. Begin with drawing a center line through the oval, from left to right. Because this is new language to many, I often have them place one hand on the top of the oval, one hand on the bottom of the oval, then slowly each hand moves at the same speed, until they are touching. This is the center! Then we pick up our pencils to draw a line where our hands met, leaving one hand down as our reference mark. This is the eye line. New artists can not believe that our eyes are located so far down on the oval. This is where we discuss our hair, and where it stops when feeling our own hairline. It is a definite light bulb moment, that ah-hah, oh my gosh that is so weird, moment.
- Duplicate this step, put instead of putting our hands at the top of the oval and the bottom, students are going to be going from the left of the oval and right of the oval, creating a center line that is now vertical. Use as much of this language with your students as you see fit. I am one that LOVES to incorporate words with meanings, even if left and right are not established, and even if horizontal and vertical are new too. The more we use words to describe art, the more our students will be able to communicate that with others. Also, art and science and math, they all begin to live together naturally as these paths and words begin to be heard again in other areas of study giving students an association for better learning. This new line is where our nose is.
- Our next step is drawing the bottom of the nose line. We will begin with placing one hand at the bottom of our oval, the other hand at the eye line that we drew earlier. Slowly, we will move our hands at the same speed, when they meet we will draw our line and this will become where our nostrils are located.
- We repeat this step again, this time placing our one hand at the bottom of our oval, the other at the bottom of our new line indicating where our nostrils will be. Once our hands meet, we use our pencil to draw a line and we now have a line that will be for our mouth.
- We examine these lines and how without any more detail, our minds are already putting them together to form a portrait.
- The next steps are all about shape. Shape that children can associate to. We discuss eyes, their shapes are like what? "Lemons", "footballs", "almonds". I ask A LOT of questions in my classes. I let my students find the answers with leading and engaging questions. Something I learned while in school studying the Reggio Amelia approach to learning. I fell in love with the philosophy immediately and have been incorporating it into my curriculum and training ever sense.
- Eyes: The line that is in the middle of our oval indicating where are eyes are placed, one line of our eye is drawn above the line, the other is drawn below the line. I often talk about a smile and a frown and how they meet at each point to give us a shape similar to our eyes. At this time discuss the iris (yes usually a new word), our pupil (that black dot in the middle of our eye, it is what actually allows us to see, I go a little science here, discussing light and how our eye works).
- Nose: Oh, those noses. This is where I see some true character in their drawing (and in the painting that will come next). Talk about the nose by first having your students "feel" their nose. Talk about cartilage and how our nose is squishy. Talk about the darkest part of our nose, where light can't get to, our nostrils. What shape are those nostrils? Yes, I have them feel it, and yes, there is always laughter. Now, after our fingers have investigated, we draw just the nostrils at the nose line.
- Lips: The line we drew together indicating where our mouth is, there will be a simple smile like line indicating the bottom lip that will be drawn below the line. The top lip, is where we take a moment to "feel". Have your students feel the middle of their top lip. What do they notice? Is it straight? Is it slightly curved? Is it similar to the letter V? Once they have felt that their top lip is shaped differently than their bottom, we go to our paper to sketch that shape we felt. I will indicate to begin with the middle of their top lip, sketching first that indented area andwhat shape that felt like to them. Then join that shape to the tip of the bottom line that created our bottom lip on each side.
- Ears: Ears begin at our eye line. Ears seem to be where my students become the most apprehensive. I have learned over the years to relate it to the shape of a heart. When we divide that heart into two, one side of the heart is placed on one side of our oval, the other side of our heart is placed on the opposite side. For those that are ready for more of a challenge, we talk about the actual shape, and the cartilage lines inside and how they are important to the sounds that we hear (another science moment).
- Now go crazy with the hair! Have your students practice how far down the hair line is, and to draw that into their sketch.
These sketches are what students will refer to when painting their portrait onto their background. Here, I release what we have worked on as a group, and let them create a portrait that they are proud of and can relate to. This is where personality shines through. You can sometimes notice what feature is most important to each artist, as there may be really big eyes, and you may notice that that child really takes in the world and analysis through what they see. See what you observe, it is always fun!
- acrylic, mixed with medium to become transparent. The goal is to have the background still be a part of the portrait.
- brushes, smaller is better for better control. If a student is having a difficult time getting an oval to be large enough, I will hand them a larger brush. Just make sure to change that large brush out as your student works on the features. Large brushes will not allow for an easy application when trying to work small.
- buckets for giving your paintbrush a bath. This is how I get my students to really clean their brush, everyone can relate to taking a bath. We even dry our brushes after they get out of the bath to make sure they are paint free before moving onto our next color.
- brushes appropriate for acrylic paint. Make sure to use nice brushes (they don't have to be top of the line) that don't shed their bristles.
- mirrors. Although the drawing was a portrait, this painting is to become a self portrait. Looking at shape, color, and even freckles to incorporate to create a true reflection of us.
- blow dryer. The best tool when painting! Students will need to dry in between each layer of paint they are using as to not blend colors together that were not meant to be mixed together. And kids LOVE using tools!
- glazing medium to create transparent acrylic. Usually one part medium to 3 parts paint.
- First paint the large oval. Studio4Art students create their own skin color. We work only from primary colors, although this is a challenge at first, EVERY student feels incredibly powerful to have mastered color mixing. If the oval begins small (as it usually does), just have your student continue to add paint until the oval has reached a size that a brush can paint the features without frustration.
- From here, students create their paints to match all other areas of their self portrait. Looking in the mirror to see the color of our iris, the color of our lips, the color of our hair, etc.
- With older students, you can also add talking about shading, where the nose gets its shape. Where our face gets its definition.
- When students are ready to paint their hair, we talk about gravity. "What causes our hair to fall and not stand straight up?" When using our brush, how can we use it in a way that creates hair like texture?
- If their ears show, they too will be painted into their self portrait.
- eyebrows. A brief discussion about how to paint eyebrows. Are our eyes just one hair? Feel your eyebrows, what shape do they make? Do you feel the bone underneath, what is that bone? How can we make all of those little hairs that create our eyebrow into our portrait?
Please let me know if you have questions with any steps or would like to know what brand of art supplies we use, (we don't use inexpensive usually, as the quality will effect the outcome and we want our students to have what "real" artists would use. In the end, using better quality art materials will last longer than trying to buy inexpensive ones anyway).
This art project can be for children as young as 3. If you are interested, ask me how.