"A Faithful Attempt" is designed to showcase a variety of K-12 art lessons, the work of my art students, as well as other art-related topics. Projects shown are my take on other art teacher's lessons, lessons found in books or else designed by myself.
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LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I acknowledge, with deep respect, that I am gathered on Treaty 7 territory. I acknowledge the many First Nations, Métis and Inuit whose footsteps have marked these lands for generations. I respect the histories, languages and cultures all the Indigenous peoples of Canada, whose presence continues to enrich our community.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Van Gogh Style Portrait

This is a Middle School portrait project which was inspired by the style of Post Impressionist Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. He is, by far, one of my most favourite artists to introduce to students because of his fabulous work and his dramatic, tragic and yet somehow inspiring life story.

The goal was to have students experiment with mixing different colour combinations of oil pastels and to create lines, patterns and textures using oil pastels. I started off by showing students a slideshow of the many portraits created by Van Gogh. Try to zoom in on the portraits to show the multitude of colours he actually used, the thick paint application and the way way he separately applied the colours in long and/or swirling brush-strokes. 

TIP: using Google Art Project, you can visit the Van Gogh Museum online, which has high quality images of his work that you can super zoom into- and I mean SUPER zoom!! If you have a digital projector, or a SMART board, you're good to go.

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889   Image Source

Self-Portrait, 1889  Image Source

So, before students create their Van Gogh style portrait, they have already completed a realistic face drawing and learned all about proportions and all that. Each student needs to have completed a simple line drawing- no shading needed. Students had a choice from working from a photo that they brought in or drawing each other. I take this drawing and photocopy it for the colour version, as I've found that after all the hard work of drawing a realistic portrait, students are mortified when I tell them we're going to colour over it all; in oil pastels no less. So I make a copy to appease their worries about 'messing it all up'.
I love using oil pastels and feel there are endless opportunities with them. Students, however, in my experience, tend to struggle with them (the smear factor mainly) and many actually hate them. It takes them a while to learn how to use them properly, to really build up thick layers and mix and blend them.

So they first need to practice mixing colours and creating lines/patterns with the oil pastels in their sketchbooks. Once they have a good feel for it, they start on their good copy. I tell them to start with the light colours first, then slowly build up the layers, adding more and more oil pastels until there's not much of the background paper left showing. It takes quite a while to get to the finished stage. They can finish up by adding final details with black. 

I found with Grade 8's I taught this too, well, many of them ran out of patience, 
but Grades 9 and up had no problem.

All in all, I find with this project students can get frustrated with the oil pastels: "it keep smearing!" and "it looks weird" but as they start to really layer and build up the oil pastels, they start to see it working.
 (And then I get to gleefully say, "See, I told you so!" heh, heh)

You can see the colours pale pink, white, yellow and orange used in the skin,

The two artwork below were drawn by two boys who were best friends in a Grade 8 class. They drew each other from life and they actually achieved a very good likeness of each other. But I think it's so funny how they look related and have such pursed, serious mouths!!

Grade 9 example:

Here's another Grade 9 example- first the pencil drawing:

Then with the oil pastels:


Ch. Stückelberger said...

Great idea, great works, very inspiring. I might try it with a class, too.

Chesterbrook Academy Elementary said...

A great project.
Your students did a fantastic job.

Miss said...

Thanks Stuckelberger and Chesterbrook!

Bea said...

Hi, Miss... I'm a first time visitor here, and was looking for a way to follow your blog. You don't have the gadget for me click on so I can follow you!! Anyway, here's my blog: http://anewbridge.blogspot.com/
Come by and check it out... I teach preK-5th grade art... and recently posted my 5th grade self portraits project. I love your VanGogh and Picasso portraits, but would REALLY love to follow your blog so all your postings show up on my blog. I hope you'll let me follow you!

Miss said...

Hi Bea- thanks so much for your kind comment! I think you can follow me by clicking on 'follow' that's located at the very very top left of the page. I'm going to visit your blog now!

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