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Self-Portrait Unit
Still Life

Kentucky Educational Television
Lesson Plan
Self-Portrait Unit, Lesson 2
Self-Portrait Drawing

Unit Overview
Lesson 1: Learning How To Draw Facial Features
Lesson 3: Learning Color Relationships Through Color Mixing
Lesson 4: Self-Portrait Painting

Activity: Self-Portrait Drawing with Stick and Ink and Ink Washes

Video: Looking at Painting, Program 1: “Realism”

Grade Level: high school

Segment: Gaela Erwin about process (approx. 3 minutes)
Start: 16:30 “The material to me is almost second nature ...”
End: 19:28 “... the way the painting is holding up.”

Web Site Resources: Gaela Erwin biography and five paintings beginning at gallery page 6

Length of Lesson: 7 days

Students will learn

  1. how to transform a mirror image into a self-portrait.
  2. how to draw guidelines to correctly locate facial features in relationship to one another.
  3. symmetrical balance, proportion, and contrast of values.
  4. how to develop a range of values to make a self-portrait look three-dimensional rather than flat.

Kentucky Core Content for Assessment:
AH-H-4.2.34, AH-H-4.2.36, AH-H-4.1.32, AH-H-4.1.33

Critical Vocabulary:
line quality
symmetrical balance

Warm-Up Exercise
Instruct the students to look in the mirror and analyze their reflections. Then ask them the following questions:

  1. What is in reverse?
  2. Does the pattern on your clothing appear to be backwards?
  3. Is the part in your hair on the opposite side of your head?
  4. Are your eyebrows the same shape? Do they arch the same way?
  5. Do your eyes differ in shape and/or size?
  6. Do you have a wide or narrow nose and nostrils?

Follow-Up: Watch the segment listed above from Looking at Painting “Realism” again (or recall the clip). Locate Gaela Erwin’s portraits in the web site gallery and have students study placement and shape of facial features. Discuss proportions.

Instructional Strategies and Activities
For a front-view portrait, have the students start with an egg-shaped oval with the larger end being at the top of the face. Before actually drawing facial features, have them study their own bone structure, observing how it is different from the basic egg shape, and make corrections.

Have them lightly sketch this beginning foundation so that it is life-size or nearly so. Demonstrate how to lightly sketch a guideline to indicate the center of the face. At this point, include a discussion of types of balance, pointing out that this is an example of symmetrical balance. Then show how to softly sketch guidelines to indicate the locations of facial features. Locate the guidelines in the following ways:

  1. Draw a very light line about halfway between the top of the skull and the bottom of the chin. The line falls through the center of the eyes.
  2. Sketch a guideline about half the distance between the eye line and the bottom of the chin. That indicates where the bottom of the nose will be located.
  3. Sketch a guideline for the middle of the lips about one-third of the distance between the bottom of the nose and the chin.

Other tips to review to help the students approach the drawing with confidence (Arttalk teacher’s edition, p. 268):

  1. The face is about three nose lengths tall.
  2. The eyes are one eye’s width apart. A third eye would fit exactly into the space between the eyes.
  3. The eyes and the tops of the ears are aligned with each other.
  4. The tip of the nose and the earlobes are aligned with each other.

After the students lightly sketch in the guidelines and carefully observe and lightly draw the facial features in pencil, demonstrate how to obtain line quality by drawing with a sharpened stick and ink. Also, demonstrate how to change the proportion of ink to water to create varying values. Have students develop their drawings using stick and ink. To make the face look like a solid form, have them develop the values using ink washes.

a mirror for each student or large mirrors that can be shared by a number of students (these might be full-length mirrors turned on their sides)
drawing paper, 12" X 18"
drawing boards
clips or tape to hold paper on boards
sharpened sticks
water containers
rags or paper towels
scrap paper for testing the values of the ink washes

Katz, Elizabeth L., E. Louis Lankford, and Janice D. Plank. Themes and Foundations of Art. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Co., 2000.

Ragans, Rosalind. Arttalk. Teacher’s wraparound edition. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 1995.

Looking at Painting Program 1: “Realism”

Web site: Gaela Erwin paintings

Supplemental Ideas
In order to see students develop the light and dark values more accurately, make sure light is coming from only one direction. Lights coming from various directions are confusing and make the value study harder.

When they are ready to add hair to their drawings, remind students to slightly overdo the volume. Most students have a tendency to draw the hair too close to the skull.

Note: Working with ink and brush is a good way to make the transition from dry media to working with paint.

Assessment and Scoring Guide
Distinguished: Student completes the drawing within the time frame with an apparent internal focus on the assignment. Student shows a depth of understanding about the location and purpose of the value changes using ink washes.
Proficient: Student completes the drawing in pencil in preparation for the ink washes and creates a wide range of value changes using ink washes.
Apprentice: Student makes some attempt but does not complete the drawing. Student shows a beginning understanding of how to alter water and ink proportions to create a value range.
Novice: Student makes no apparent attempt to complete the drawing. The student creates underdeveloped ink washes with no apparent understanding of the purpose.

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