Digital Self-Portraits

Word PortraitThis is a lesson that can be done with upper elementary all the way to high school art.  As a group, we studied portraiture, specifically self-portraits.  Students are asked to take a photograph of themselves and convert it to a black and white digital image.  This can be done with any basic software that comes with your computer’s operating system, in addition to photo-editing apps available on smart phones and tablets.

  • As a class, we discussed character and character traits.
  • What character traits best described them?
  • If you made a portrait solely based on your character traits, which words would you want to include?

Then, the students made a bubble map of approximately 5-10 words of their character traits.  Similar to a Wordle, the most important character traits were repeated most often.  We also discussed value and form and how artists used value to create form with shades and tints.

Depending on the availability of software in your school, there are a couple of ways to go about this – students can use a presentation tool (like PowerPoint or Keynote) or they can use more software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (although since text is involved, Illustrator is more ideal).  The reason I do not recommend a drawing program is largely because at the completion of their portrait, they will no longer need their photograph.

Students first placed their image onto their canvas.  Next, focusing only on the dark values and shadows, the students added their characteristics in the font of their choice, paying attention to size and rotating as needed.  To accommodate students in middle and high school, I would recommend having students using the value scale to add words in the mid-range values as well, to show more modelling and form.  After they finished, students would remove their photograph, choose a color for the background, and print.

Technology in the Art Room

It can be a challenge to implement technology, but it is essential to be a 21st century teacher and create and equip 21st century learners.  I have spent the last few years coming up with strategies to implement technology as instructional tools, as well as implementing free and low cost web-based programs and apps for art production.  Keep in mind that this is a working knowledge of resources.  I am building up my arsenal of technology tools and strategies every year to streamline my classroom and be a more effective teacher.  These strategies and instruments help broaden the perspective of my students on what exactly is considered “art media”.  That being said, here are a few resources for you to explore and try in your art room.

The “Re-teaching” Document Camera

One of my most essential instructional tools in my document camera.  I use this tool to demonstrate a technique, a step in a project, or Document Cameraeven to set up a still life for students to observe.  I have found it especially useful as a re-teaching tool.  Even after I have verbally given instructions, demonstrated the instructions, and written them out, there is still canDocument Camera 2 be that one student who may have been distracted.  (Gasp)  Here is where the document camera comes into play.  For example, say I am teaching my second grade students how to make the paper relief sculpture, and we are starting to make our petals.  I set the camera to record as I am demonstrating, and when I finish that step, I stop the recording.  It saves the file and there is a digital video of me teaching.  (I try to keep these short and sweet).  I open them to play (in a program like Windows Media Player or QuickTime) and set them at “Fast” and loop.  This plays (on mute!) on the projector, freeing me up to monitor and teach students one-on-one or in small groups while the other students may catch a step that might have missed or are confused about.

(FREE!) Web-based Media

Here are some fantastic websites for students to create art on the computer.  I have used these time and again as stand-alone projects or to incorporate into a mixed-media lesson.

Mr. Picasso Head – a great program for an artist study!  Students create portraits in the style of Picasso!Sea-Saws Student Example - 5th Grade

Brushster – A program on the National Gallery of Art’s Art Zone page.  This program allows for students to explore different brushes and styles of art.  Versatile and fun, this program is great for upper elementary and middle school.

Collage Machine – Also on the National Gallery of Art’s Art Zone page.  This program allows students to use shapes or textures to create digital collages.

Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas – Allows you to paint fractals like Pollock.  This is a great program for younger elementary as it is simple but creates colorful works of art – mess free!

Sea-Saws – This National Gallery of Art – Art Zone program allows students to create collages/found object “relief” sculptures using a variety of textures.  It even has an added animation capability.

Brushster 5th Grade Student Example - Insect StudyArt Pad – This web-based program is similar to Brushster.  You “paint” with a brush and can even add a frame.  As an added bonus you can “replay” your painting, and it demonstrates the brushstrokes step-by-step.

Others include: Jungle, Still Life, Flow, Photo Op, and many more found on the National Gallery of Art website under Education.

This is just part one of Technology in the Art Room.  Next time I will be discussing apps in the art room for instructional use and art-making!

Magazine Bowls

IMG_2695I saw this done at a TAEA conference a few years back.  It is a great way to explore sculpture and recycled art.  As we begin we discuss artists Louise Nevelson and Mark Dion, as well as discussing possibilities for everyday items we use that aren’t easily recycled.  This is a great lesson for upper elementary, middle school, and high school.  For my 5th grade students I give them an inch-wide 14-16 inch long piece of poster board to uses as a folding strip.  With older students, I would recommend using a half-inch wide strip.  This helps them create uniform pieces to combine.  They begin by placing their folding strips lengthwise along the paper (landscape style).  I have the students folding, wrapping the paper around two times before the add a bead of glue.  Then they continue to repeat folding and adding a bead of glue until it is complete.  To build the base, students continue to create their folded strips and then when they have three or four of them, the begin creating the base of the bowl.  I have students create the base 10-20 strips thick in order to give the bowl a substantial base.  Then, the students continue the process, but instead of going directly around, they spiral the strips up to create the sides and edges of the bowl.  The resulting bowl is rather beautiful.  As an enrichment to the lesson, I have the advanced students create a color scheme for their bowl, or make the bowl transform into a vase.

Spring Art Show

Every school year it is my goal to hang each students art once.  At our school we have six art shows to display and honor their hard work and creativity in the art room. Twice a year our students have their artwork showcased at the local Art Gallery for a district-wide art show.  The reception for the Spring Art Show was held Thursday, March 8th.   Here are some snapshots of the show, where close to a hundred works of art were on display among the thousands from the elementary schools in the district.

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