Wednesday, February 18, 2009

8th Grade "Chuck Close" Portraits: Value study

Each year following an introduction to gridded self-portraiture that includes a book & video discussion about contemporary artist, Chuck Close, I take pictures of my 8th grade students with a digital camera, and print the pictures in grayscale to at least 6 inches by 8 inches. Students draw a 1/4-inch grid over the entire photograph, and then create a ½ -inch grid on drawing paper to double the size of the image. They use numbers and letters along the sides of the gridded photograph, and corresponding numbers and letters along the sides of their paper. Squares may be divided further (into quarter- and half-inches) if necessary.

Students begin by establishing the contour lines around their head and shoulders, and then use the grids (like coordinates on a map) to "plot" and place their features. Most students find it helpful to use a cover sheet over their photograph to see a "row" of squares or to isolate individual squares.

I encourage them to turn the photo and paper 90-degrees about every 10 minutes to facilitate their "right-brained" ability to see spatial relationships and to avoid the predictable and unavoidable "left-brained" concerns about drawing their eyes or a mouth or an ear. I tell them they're not DRAWING body parts--they're simply drawing lines! :-)

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