In their homeroom classes, the 5th graders have been addressing the central idea that “there are many ways to create peaceful solutions to conflict” by looking at how each student manages situations of conflict and interpersonal problems. And so in art class, we are taking this opportunity to create self-portraits that express each person’s understanding or belief about this theme.
Students are incorporating both drawing (pencil) and collage (magazines primarily) to represent their own faces and to communicate their particular belief or understanding about peace and conflict resolution. The students are also required to use text (words or sentences) in addition to imagery in their picture. Previously, students were instructed in ways of observing themselves in mirrors and depicting their faces by drawing, although the amount and type of drawing in this project is entirely up to each student.
Additionally, as some students have shown an interest in graffiti (see one of the videos we watched below), we have begun a 1×2 meter collaborative graffiti drawing. On a large paper on the wall, students take turns drawing for 5 minutes each with a black marker. The guidelines are: 1. draw locally 2. draw what you know 3. do not deface others’ art 4. no stick figures.
See the students at work here on both the self-portraits and the graffiti drawing:
Graffiti video of artist team “Mulheres Barbadas” (the Bearded Ladies):
Having completed their Impressionism-inspired paintings before the winter holidays, the fifth graders have been spending some time focused intensely on themselves — in a very artistic manner, that is.
In preparation for their next project (a self-portrait drawing & collage piece on the theme of Peace and Conflict Resolution), the students have been warming up by doing some drawing focused on getting them to learn to look closely. Keen observation is one of the keys to drawing-what-you-see, and so the 5th graders spent some time doing blind contour drawings of themselves, of each other, and of their teacher. This activity challenges a person to draw while looking only at the subject, not at the paper, training the eyes to look closely at contours (edges) while the hand learns to follow along with the gaze. Later, the students did some modified blind contour drawings and then began doing some self-portrait practice which aimed to help them locate the features of their face both in the correct place and in proportion to one another.
Here is the video the students watched to learn about how to create their blind contour drawings:
Here is the video that showed the students how to modify the above method to create a more realistic self-portrait from observation:
Continuing on with the first graders’ homeroom study of how one’s family history provides insight into one’s own personal identity, the students are continuing to move forward with their family portraits — first, by creating a large, life-size, half-body self-portrait painting.
Soon, these self-portraits will become family portraits as the students begin to add images from their memory of family events or from their knowledge of their family history (which they are discussing with Ms. Robidoux and Ms. Saito). In the meantime, the students come to realize that the seemingly simple act of drawing oneself has many complexities and challenges, as does the process of mixing the paint in one’s palette to create the desired tones for skin and hair. They continue to learn about drawing and about how to depict the human face but also about taking risks in doing things differently than before, about inquiring into oneself and one’s family, and about reflecting on one’s and one’s own family’s experiences.
The kindergarten students — having just completed their mid-year self-portrait drawing — have been working on self-portraiture in a different medium: paint. Whereas their previous encounter with paint was very experimental, using a variety of tools to manipulate the paint in terms of lines, shapes, colors, and texture, this art project had the children sit in front of mirror with a palette of paint and some brushes and attempt to create a likeness of themselves — albeit with much creative license! Before sitting down to work, the class observed, reacted to, and discussed a wide variety of portrait paintings by artists or varying styles (Alice Neel, Max Beckmann, Paul Cezanne, Frida Kahlo, Peter Paul Rubens, and Henri Matisse, to name a few).
This project allows for further experimentation with risk-taking, decision-making, color-mixing, independence, and self-evaluation, and it leads us into the next version of their self-portraits (which will incorporate both digital photography and hand-coloring with pastels).