Sunday, September 20, 2015

Contemporary Self Portraits

 I made the decision almost a year ago when I started this blog that I would be very upbeat and positive. However, not every lesson I do as an art teacher is successful. Below is the sample that I started, which I did because my students didn't understand what I expected from them.  I told them my hand is important to me as an artist and that is why it is in the middle of the paper. And that they should think about what is the most important part of them to have in their art work.
My idea was totally inspired by the self portrait below when I was at Penn State for a Summer Institute on Contemporary Art.

 When school started back up last month I thought this would be a very different and exciting way to do self portraits with my 3rd-5th graders. We talked about the difference between a portrait and a self portrait. I showed students an enlarged photo of my inspiration. Looking closely you can see a lot of little vignettes that tell a story. My "I can" statement was "I can tell a story about myself using images".

We talked about the clues hidden in a self portrait or a portrait that might give us insight into that person. I had them write a list of their favorite things. Students practiced doing facial features and hands in their sketchbooks. The instructions sheets below can be found in Triarco.
They practiced doing 3D or joined figures, to get away from doing stick figures. This way they could include people in their story.

They practiced drawing out their stories in their sketchbooks.

Then they had the choice to color with markers, colored pencils or paint.

Shown are the the self portraits of the students that understood the lesson and were successful. Too many of the students copied me and just drew a hand in the middle of their paper. Some students heard the word paint and started over and just painted something not even closely related to the assignment. AND many still drew stick figures! Many students thought they were finished because they did the artwork in their sketchbooks, not realizing that, that is where you plan out your work. Obviously my communication to them was severely lacking!

While there were successful self portraits throughout all 3 grade levels, the percentage wasn't high enough for me to consider this lesson a success. In reflecting back maybe I should have limited it to one image that would tell us something about them. Or had samples of different ways to approach this. If I do this again I will have photos of student work to share. Perhaps both the ones that worked and the ones that didn't. I am also seriously considering having students do an artist statement to reflect on the assignment and what they learned from it.

I would be very interested in hearing about the lessons that you didn't think worked.

Thanks for reading!!


  1. Oh Sheryl! If I had a penny for every time I feel like I failed.....
    Well, I'd be very rich!
    I love your post!!!!