Monday, January 6, 2014

Painted Portraits

Students in Honors Painting created painted portraits in acrylic of either themselves or people they know.  

First, students drew their person to the best of their ability, using charcoal, from a photograph or using a mirror.  Some students even mapped out the shapes of the shadows, which was a wise move.

Next, they transferred the drawing onto a gessoed 18" by 24" MDF board using the age-old carbon on the back of your paper and trace your lines technique.  They then went over the charcoal lines with watery paint, solidifying them.  I want the students to be aware of several methods of getting a drawing ready for the painting process, and this is just one of them. 

Next, students painted their background at least one color.  They then began mixing skin tones for different values in the photograph which was no small feat.  They continued in this way, struggling to maintain some sense of realism.  Acrylic paint was very difficult to work with because students' local colors for their skin tones kept drying up and they had trouble re-mixing them to be the same hue. 

Eventually, most of the students got a handle on working quickly, and were able to get their painting to a place where there were many values 
(dark and light colors) in the face, neck and hair, to the point where the features pop out in space. 

Besides practice mixing colors and making objects appear dimensional in space, another aspect of the project was students getting to know other artists who paint portraits.  Close to the beginning of the process, I asked each student to choose an (portrait) artist who they admired and to emulate some aspect of that painter's work.  They could imitate the style, brush strokes, color palette or background of the artist.   I try and impress upon all of my students that they are connected in a lineage of artists going back in time, and that they should find artists who can inform and inspire their work. This project was a piece of that idea.

Sean chose the artist Max Beckmann to influence his painting
Paula chose VanGogh to inspire her brushstrokes and color palette

Finished painting by Janet V.  influenced by Matisse and Alice Neel
Finished painting by Josef J.

Completed painting by Myers influenced by Rembrandt
Completed painting by Ava R.

Finished painting by Ranika F.   Her chosen artist of influence is Kehinde Wiley
Completed painting by Anisbeth Torres  Influenced by Matisse

Completed portrait by Heidi M.     Influenced by Frida Kahlo

Portrait by Ianna C. influenced by Klimt

Portrait by Maysun V.

Portrait by Natalie S.

Pencil Portraits 2013-2014

Students went through the same process as last year to create large-scale beautiful portraits of family members or friends in either pencil or charcoal.  They did not use a grid, but instead had to very closely observe all of the features comprising the particular face in their photograph. 
Portrait by Rachel F.

Once again we started with an oval, then the overall angle of the face and the placement of the middle line, and then basic face proportions.  This year I stressed from the start, using tracing paper and measuring areas of the face on the photograph, using lines and tick marks, and then comparing/enlarging those same measurements on the 18" by 24" paper.  In this way the students could check to see if what they drew was happening mathematically. If not, they made adjustments in order to be more accurate in proportion.  


After closely observing and measuring and drawing all of the facial features, the 2nd battle was to use values to recreate the subtle lights and darks in the photo in order to make the features appear 3-Dimensional.  

Some of the students also chose to add limited color to their portrait using watercolor or colored pencils.

Portrait by Ana G.

 This is a very difficult project because it requires so much patience, and re-drawing and re-measuring and close observation.  It also means I am doing a lot of step by step demonstrations which is unusual in my classroom.  In the end, students are generally very proud of their work.  To create a realistic drawing of a person is something most of my students want to be able to accomplish, and that is why this project will probably come around every year.  It is a desired skill even if it is not a very creative act. 

Please look at last year's post if you want a more detailed description of the process.  I wanted to highlight some of the portraits from this year.  The photos don't do justice to the subtle and meticulous shading in some of these!

Self Portraits

Portrait by Prue M.

 Moms and Dads

Portrait by Shania

Portrait by Rafal K.
Portrait by Esmeralda L.

Portrait by Melissa S.


Portrait by Elena S.

Portrait by Jose C.F.

Portrait by Stefanie J.

Portrait by Maddie M.
Portrait by Yaziria

Portrait by Kara T.

Portrait by Olivia S.

Portrait by Nancy P.

Portrait by Piotr R.

Family Friends

Portrait by Lilly A.

Grandmothers and Grandfathers (most from vintage photos)

Portrait by Gabriel F.

Portrait by Christy T.
Portrait by Alexandra


Portrait by Vanessa C.