Art Lesson Plan: Monochromatic Self Portraits

Monochromatic Self Portraits

Submitted by: Judi Morgan, Saint George's School, Spokane, WA
UNIT: Painting - technology - Portrait
Lesson: Monochromatic Self Portraits
Grade Level: Middle School (examples are 8th grade)


Lesson Summary:

This is a skills lesson on painting and mixing values. An introduction to Photoshop/Photoshop Elements is also included. Students will learn how to posterize an image and then use that image for a monochromatic self portrait painting with contrasting color background. See suggestions below for more ideas.


Teacher Preparation:

Take digital photographs of students during previous lesson. Photos can be saved onto floppy disk or saved into a class folder by student name. High contrast photographs work best. You might want to make these expressive - show emotion.


For practice exploration:

Option 1 - Take photographs of staff members who are willing to participate. Make a class CD of staff members - or store photographs in folder on net work that students can access.




Option 2 - Select people through time that have made a difference (Heroes). Choose people that are part of the social studies course of study. Select only photographs/portraits that are in public domain (in general before 1923). Store on CD or network folder. If using this option, also have student write down reasons why this person is important (get in a brief character lesson). If you want to use photographs not in public domain, permission must be granted by copyright holder for photo manipulation (permission is difficult to obtain - you might try getting permission to use portraits/photographs of US Presidents, for example). Briefly discuss copyright/public domain. Note: You may omit the practice and go right to the student photograph.



Pop art - Andy Warhol - Expressionists portraits



POPism: The Warhol Sixties. - POPism is Warhol's personal view of the Pop phenomenon in New York in the 1960s and a look back at the relationships that made up the scene at the Factory, including his relationship with Edie Sedgewick, and focus of the film, Factory Girl. This book is a history of pop art from the viewpoint of Warhol.


Andy Warhol 365 Takes: The Andy Warhol Museum Collection. - More than 15 years after Warhol's death, his work retains an uncanny ability to make the most banal elements of American life sharp and subversive; these 365 full-page color illustrations, with pertinent texts on facing pages, includes his movies and much more in celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Warhol museum.



* Integrate technology - learn some Photoshop basics
* Develop portrait to show mood/feelings through color
* Develop skills in painting
* Create values (scale of five values) - exhibit contrast.
* Learn how other artists have used technology of their time (use of photographic images)



Digital Camera.- student photos
Optional - CD of staff photos or heroes
Photoshop (or other photo editing software. You can get Photoshop and Photoshop Elements at the Adobe Education Store
Illustration Board. or Posterboard., Saral Transfer Paper. (or graphite)
Tempera Paint. - Mixing Trays. - Brushes.


To the student:

This assignment will allow you to explore:

1. Mixing colors
2. Values
3. Using PhotoShop and/or PhotoShop Elements
4. Contrast


The first thing you will need is a photograph of yourself. (I have done Polaroid images then scanned them. I have also done digital and downloaded them into a common folder for the students to pick up from the network) If the image will need to be scanned and since there is only one scanner, you must wait your turn. While waiting, you will get familiarized with the program. Instructions follow:

  1. Log onto a computer

  2. Go to PhotoShop Elements (Get Photoshop Elements at the Adobe Education Store.)

  3. Click on New File

  4. Set Image Size to 8.5 x 11

  5. Click on Layer

    1. Click on New (You should always work with a blank background layer. Consider this to be your "table" and not to be drawn on!)

  6. Open CD (or class folder)

  7. Select photograph/portrait you wish to alter from those presented - Open image

    1. Right click on the image

    2. Choose copy

    3. Close window and return to Photoshop Elements

  8. Ctrl V to paste your image onto the top layer.

  9. Click on IMAGE

    1. Choose RESIZE

    2. Drag corners to fit your CANVAS (do not change proportion of image. Crop canvas if needed)

  10. Click on IMAGE again

    1. Choose MODE

    2. Choose GRAYSCALE

  11. Click on IMAGE again

    1. Choose ADJUSTMENTS

    2. Choose POSTERIZE

    3. Experiment with numbers. Attempt to get 5 values including black and white.

    4. Save image to file (to your own folder) - label with your name-name of photo

  12. Print to Lab Printer (Optional for practice portrait - teacher may assess these from student folders)

  13. When you have your own photo, repeat these steps to create your posterized self portrait.

  14. Students who finish early - may explore selected features of Photoshop/Photoshop elements and manipulate their own photograph (save as new name) or practice photograph (don't save).


Now that you have your posterized portrait, you will begin to prepare to paint.

1. As always, make a 1" (2.5 cm) border on your illustrator board.
2. Slide transfer paper (Saral Transfer Paper.) between the face and the illustration board. (You can make your own transfer paper using graphite on Tracing Paper.)
3. Trace each value shape firmly with pencil. Include those of the background.



You are ready to begin to paint your portrait:

1. You will begin by painting the white areas and the black areas (black areas will be most interesting with a touch of your color added)
2. When those areas are completed, you may pick a single color to create the middle values.
3. Work from lightest areas to darkest areas.
4. Be certain that you leave no gaps between the areas of paint (no illustration board peeking through).

After you have finished your face, you will need to paint the background:

Make your background contrast with your portrait. It can contrast in one of the following ways:

* Complementary (opposite each other on Color Wheels.)
* Warm vs. cool
* Color vs. grayscale

Using color you choose, create values, but do not include pure white or pure black black.


Follow-up Lesson:

Look at the work of Andy Warhol and discuss how photography was used. Look at other Pop artists and see how they used available technology. Look at Expressionists portraits and discuss color for emotion. Compare student experience to the historical examples. Learn a little about the life and influences of the artists presented.


Assessment: (Rubric Adapted from one by Marianne Galyk) To print rubric, click on the rubric and print.




Student Comments:


Teacher Comments:


Lesson Challenge:

Judi's lesson guarantees results. All students feel confident to continue. Some students may want to take on the challenge of drawing their own portrait (rather than tracing from photograph). Allow that opportunity - but do have them learn to posterize. Here are some suggestions:


1. Draw contours from looking at the photograph - or try upside down drawing (cover the photograph and only draw a portion of it at a time).


2. Transfer using Grid method - with this method, the self portrait can be enlarged. When finished drawing - erase the grid lines - or maybe even incorporate them into the design of the painting.


3. Tape acetate to mirror - have students draw portrait looking into mirror - follow contours. Photocopy this contour drawing for students to use (suggested by Linda Keiling -Getty TeacherArtExchange post).


4. Lay grid transparency on mirror - students do gird drawing by looking into mirror (suggested by Marvin Bartel - Getty TeacherArtExchange post).



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