SchoolArts Magazine

AUG-SEP 2008

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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High School Studio Lesson SELf-PORTRAIT AVAtA R S Brian Hutcheson T he world of fine arts can seem a bit intimidating to a student, and it is part of the teacher's role to help ease students into that world. One of my goals as an art and design educator is to bring the world of my students into classroom projects, providing a sense of comfort and familiarity in the context of learning something new. My inspiration for this project grew from that goal, as I tried to connect the traditional subject matter of portraiture with the current trends of students, inhabiting the digital realm in the form of digital avatars. The final project for my students bridged the gap between the traditional and contemporary as they were asked to create a self-portrait using paint as their medium in a pixilated, 8-bit video game style. More inspiration for the format of their project came from the artist Chuck Close and his grid painting technique, the video game character Mario, and a magnificent video by the White Stripes created out of animated Legos. Within the task of creating a self-portrait, students had the freedom to break free from direct representation, yet they needed to retain a human-like form. Exploring the Self-Portrait Starting Out Small Our project was guided by two essenI should note that this project was tial questions: part of an introductory visual arts • Whydopeople—artistsinparticu- course and as part of the project, lar—create pictures of themselves? we covered basic color theory and • Whatdoesaself-portraittellus human proportions to introduce about that person? students who previously didn't have We talked that knowlabout the traedge, and to Self-portraiture is becoming dition of selfreinforce stuwidespread in the digital realm dents who had portraiture and as people create avatars to take more in-depth looked at the part in that world. work of artists visual art backsuch as Vincent grounds. van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, and Andy Students began their self-portrait Warhol for visual reference and inspiavatars on a small, narrow piece of ration. We also discussed how selfgraph paper, where they created a portraiture is becoming widespread rough draft version of their avatar in the digital realm as people create using color pencils. This provided a avatars to take part in that world. safe starting point where students Our examples included the video could practice their ideas on a small game Halo, the virtual reality world scale and were able to quickly try Second Life, and social websites like multiple solutions. This also introWeeWorld.com. duced students to the idea of having limited pixels to create their self- 30 schoolartsonline.com portraits. Students quickly realized that though their final painting would be larger than the rough drafts, they would still be limited in how they could represent themselves in this 8-bit video game style. Enlarging the Grid Once students had completed their rough drafts, they were given a large 6 x 18" (15 x 46 cm) piece of heavy paper, suitable to be painted on with acrylic or tempera paint. Students had to create their own ¼" grid on the large piece of paper, which proved somewhat difficult for many students. A key to helping students create straight lines for their grid

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