Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Formal Portraiture in the Middle School Art Room

 I have a real healthy appreciation for thematic projects that focus on social and emotional issues. . . These sorts of projects typically translate to abstract and/or artwork that does not rely upon realism. Since many of my students will go on to take more advanced Art classes at the high school level, it is important to me -and the the High School Art teachers- that my students have some experience with formal, academic, realism drawing.

My students love themselves, so I figured a self-portrait drawn in a mirror would be a good starting place!  One my favorite artists who focuses on the human body is Egon Schiele. . .Now, Schiele doesn't seem like a very nice guy. . .In fact, I dare say he was a bit of a really nasty, deviant, perverted criminal (some of his subjects are a little too young and posed a little too proactively, and he got into trouble for exposing some of his art to minors). . .But, I do like his artistic style. . .So, I taught my students how to add the painted white paint and ochre wash elements of Schiele's style without ever mentioning his name. . . Honestly, I  just don't want my 13-15 year-old 8th grade students to go home and Google/Bing search Schiele and be exposed to such nastiness.

This project was completed by my 8th grade students.

1. Every student had a mirror. . .Sort of like this one (they snap into 2 mirrors super-easy, so I reinforce that top "fold" with duct tape/clear packing tape. It works like a charm!)
2. We practiced drawing from observation for two class days. Each day we focused on different parts of the face.  I modeled how to draw the face using my own face, mirror and a document camera.
3. We began each class with 2-3 quick-draws, and we discussed how this warmed us up for drawing (like stretching before running)
4. We discussed how drawing from the shoulder yields better results than drawing from the wrist, and I demonstrated.
5. On the third day, students began a contour line drawing of their face
6. On the fourth day, students added shading and value (I modeled how to do this)
7. Next, students added an ochre wash
8. Finally students added an outline of white tempera and then a bit more value shading for added "oomph" and contrast.

There are great girl-student portraits too. . But the ladies requested to not be featured on the blog. :)


  1. Ha ha. I was wondering about the absence of girls...

    Anyhow - Wow! Are these the same kids you've been talking about with no prior instruction?!!! Their contour line expertise, especially in portraits # 3, 5, and 7 below your text, is impressive! Look at those shirt collars!! Wow! Should I assume that's a school uniform? I haven't seen any middle school students around here wearing shirts like that in decades!

    Tell your boys how fabulous they are! (and goodlookin' too!)

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