Thursday, November 25, 2010

Self Portraits

Our school is in partnership with the Children's Museum of the Arts which provides art education in classrooms across New York City.

Our artist in residence, Margaret, taught our students the fundamentals of color (primary, secondary, color mixing, tints, tones, shades, etc.) and line while engaging in motivating hands-on art projects.

Several weeks ago Margaret introduced us to self portraits through the work of artist David Hockney. She invited the children to create their own self portraits influenced by David Hockney's style.  This includes a strong, single colored, solid background behind the central figure of a face to include perhaps some of the neck and shoulder area.

We were guided through the process with Margaret modeling for the students as she created her own self portrait.

Each student was given a small mirror to look at themselves as they drew their portrait in pencil on large sheets of paper.  Margaret had prepared each sheet by outlining the edges with masking tape so that when the tape was removed (after painting) it would create a clean line to frame the art.

She instructed them in mixing paints to create their skin tone, how to paint eyes and to add finishing touches such as outlining the pencil marks in black marker to make it pop.

The finished pieces blew me away.  I could easily see them used as illustrations in children's books.

Totally brilliant!

I was very pleased to see some of the parents reactions to the self portraits.

As they stated, these are indeed worthy of framing.

This experience is just another instance of children surprising me with their talent and insight.

What a gift for Thanksgiving!


Dumdad said...

Wow. You're right: "Totally brilliant!" Love 'em.

Ms.M said...

They are very good!

Angella Lister said...

children are such natural artists! this reminds me of when in third grade my daughter and her class made self portraits, one each month for the entire year. They experimented with different styles each month, and then presented the whole sheaf of self portraits to their parents at the end of the year. It was just fascinating to see their evolution both as artists and in how they saw themselves over the course of the year. Now you know why I love this post!

I hope you had a good thanksgiving!

Gary said...

Thanks Dumdad and Ms. M for the support.

Angella - a portrait every month!? Wow, that is no small task considering the study involved of the various artists and the time it takes for the kids to create these. Of course, most children can whip off a picture in mere minutes. What a treasure you have there. What does your daughter think of the self portraits nowadays?

Thanksgiving was lovely. I hope yours was as well.

Barbara said...

You should definitely publish a book, with the children's permission of course! I especially like all those teeth.

I thought of you just today as I checked out a Todd Parr book on loving to read. Our next theme is "gratitude" to the organization which sponsors the reading program. The kids will make thank-you notes as the activity.

Gary said...

Barbara - Todd's books are the best. I am pleased to be thought of in association with them. Gratitude is a timely theme and a good one! Perhaps they can make their own self portraits on the front of the card to show who is thankful. Kids always seem interested when it gets that personal. xo

Pauline said...

I love the way most kids see themselves - those wide eyes, those big grins. I may try Margaret's techniques myself and will certainly engage my grandchildren in portrait painting when I next see them. We are always amazed when we bring out what we think of as the best in kids, but I see you doing that all the time through the posts about your class. Thanks for sharing!

Angella Lister said...

Gary, the portrait assignment was very low stress, and was assigned as homework one night each month. And you're right, some months my daughter just dashed off something, other months she produced a labor of love, and she perceived that either approach was okay. But even in the dashed off months the portraits were revealing of what was occupying her mind at the time, like the cartoonish picture she drew of herself in doing a cartwheel when she was taking gymnastics. We knew it reflected her gymnastics class because the blue leotard she was wearing in the drawing was a dead ringer! It was actually very funny and sweet. But then I was (am) probably a totally over involved parent!


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