Sunday, March 6, 2016

positive portraits.

This past week the 1st and 4th graders were working with people- from a distance and up close. Both grades were also practicing their painting techniques- application and care of their tools.

The 4th graders looked at a few paintings by San Diego's own, Kadir Nelson. We looked at how he captured movement through the positioning of the bodies in his scenes and we talked about proportion too. I broke out a couple of my small mannequins and modeled the movement of a couple of the athletes in Kadir's work. Some classes did playground basketball images, while others did wall ball scenes.
My kids and I did some early morning motion studies to serve as inspiration for the wall ball paintings.

We started the project by drawing out the hoop or wall ball wall. Then we drew the characters in the work. We broke them down into simpler geometric shapes- ovals, circles, trapezoids, and pentagons. We talked about the lengths of parts against each other an the whole figure as we drew. I asked students to draw at least 3 figures. 3d space was created through size changes in the figures.

We filled the figures in with a black crayon to emphasize their positive shape and position against the soon to be painted setting. 

When we painted, we tried to make colors lighter or darker with more or less water. I also stressed cleaning their brushes well between colors and not tapping their wet brushes on the cups of water they were sharing with others.

The 1st graders looked at the work of Oakland based artist, Favianna Rodriguez, as inspiration for their painting. We talked about portraits as pictures of people and found numerous examples around my classroom. We noticed that not all portraits look the same and that people look different if you see them from the front as compared to the side. 

We talked about how Favianna often uses Monarch butterflies in her work as a positive symbol for migration of people. As a school in San Diego, we have many students with families in Mexico and as a school with a very diverse population, we have students with families in many other countries as well. I briefly talked about how Favianna's work celebrates the contributions of immigrants to our country.

I started the week doing a oil pastel resist painting, based on the first butterfly image. Many students struggled mightily with the symmetrical nature of the drawing. Because of that, I changed focus images to the second one above. This was much more manageable for the kids. Once we drew the portrait and traced the pencil lines with crayons, we painted. Again, trying to create light and darks by adjusting the amount of water used with the paint.


  1. Very cool! Do you come across the artists you use in your lessons by visiting galleries, etc. or google search? I have been incorporating more local living artists in my classroom and it has been a very exciting change. I was just wondering how you go about finding and selecting the artists you use.

    1. thanks! it's primarily through internet browsing. I have a few go-tos like colossal, boooom!, and omg posters that i read on the regular. Lately, I have been doing searches on pinterest for contemporary artists and our materials to inspire projects. I'm dmasse on pinterest if you want to take a look and what I have saved. when i'm searching and pin something, it shows you pins like that one, so i tend to go down that hole and continue to search, come back up for air, and repeat. I have used local artists as inspo, but most of those I find online, too. If you have any other questions let me know!

    2. Thanks! I'll look you up on pinterest!

  2. Fantastic figures in motion! Really great learning and resulting artwork too. :D

  3. LOVE the Positive portraits projects, D.