Charcoal Self Portraits

Upon returning from break, our first 2D Art project is charcoal self portraits. In the past, I have lectured for a couple of days about the planes of the face, and we have drawn eyes, noses, etc, but the students never really seemed to be able to transition from that exercise to voluminous self portraits.

Now that I have a projector in my classroom, I decided this would be a good opportunity to show students a little corresponding art history. My original plan was to just flash through a collection of portraits I dragged down off of the net. Then it came to me, I could have the students practice from the master pieces. Our previous project was painting masterpiece copies, so this worked very well.

 Self-Portrait with Pipe, ca. 1849 Gustave Courbet

I organized my examples from highest contrast to lowest to allow my students to gain control of charcoal. The first day was delightful. Most every student had paid attention to the shadows in Rembrandt’s face. The second day was better. Several students had sketches that looked remarkably like the original. Today, I had another epiphany, I took each of my examples and made a gray-scale version and a posterized version in Photoshop. This made it very easy to point out how most of the shading was to indicate form, and only a few dark areas should be added as lines. By the end of the hour, most every student had a likeness of Courbet. Some did bear a slight resemblance to Chè Guevara, but that is to be expected in the art room.


About Mr. Miller

I teach Visual Arts in La Junta, Colorado. I am also an artist and printmaker. But more importantly, I am a husband and father to a beautiful and inspiring family.
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