This art lesson was inspired by the portraits of the American artist, Chuck Close. It is a group art project for up to 20 students which begins as a lesson on color and ends with the surprising 'reveal' of a large scale portrait.
A ready-made set of Batman images.
You can download one of our ready-made sets of images which you may print for your class or group to start this project. Like our illustrated example, each of these contain 20 abstract images and the plan for their arrangement to form a famous face. There are 12 ready-made sets available in the menu at the bottom of the page.
Note: It is preferable that the group does not know the identity of the portrait to increase element of surprise at the end when all 20 sections are assembled for the 'reveal'.
Each student receives one section of the portrait.
To begin the color element of this project, each student should be given one section of the portrait as their reference image.
They should be issued with a number to write on the back of this image that corresponds to its position in the portrait plan. This makes it so much easier to reassemble the 20 sections of the image at the end of the project.
Color the section.
The first task for each student is to color their section of the portrait. Students are free to express their individuality through their choice of colors must adhere to the guidelines below which are necessary for the arrangement of the final image.
All squares or parts of squares that are light on the reference image should only be colored with bright or tinted hues (colors that are mixed with white).
Decorate the section.
Once the backgrounds are colored, students can use any type of pattern they choose to decorate their section but again they must follow certain rules:
Any colors may be used to pattern the darker areas of the image as long as that area still appears dark when compared to the lighter areas.
All colors used to pattern the lighter areas of the image should only use tinted hues (colors that are mixed with white) in order that these areas remain light in contrast with the darker areas.
Example of a dark monotone reference image
Note: Among the individual reference images you may find that one or two are monotone, either totally dark or light. If you have a dark section it should be colored according to the rules for painting dark areas. Conversely if it is a light section it should be colored according to the rules for painting light areas.
Gather in all the completed sections.
As the individual sections are completed they should be gathered in by the teacher or group leader to prevent the students piecing them together in order to discover the identity of the overall image. This discovery should be a surprise that they all experience as a group at the end of the project.
Note: When working on a group project there are usually some students who work very slowly or others who are unable to attend which results in some of the work being left unfinished. In such cases those who have finished their contribution early should help out by assisting with any work that remains incomplete. This should ensure that all students remain active and finish the project together.
Arrange the sections to form the final image.
Once all the sections are finished they should be arranged to form the final image. At this stage the students will discover the identity of the portrait. With that information they can then decide if any of the sections need some color or tonal adjustments to improve the impact of the final image.
Presenting the finished work.
To present the work at its best, each section should be carefully trimmed, aligned with its adjacent sections and taped or glued together at the back to form the final image.
From our experience, most students, irrespective of their level of ability, take great pride in their contribution to this project. However, their one concern is that there is only one end product, which means that they do not have visual a record of their involvement. Nevertheless, there are a couple of ways around this. One is to allow the students to photograph the final image with their own cameras or cell phones. Another is for the teacher or group leader to take a digital photograph and store it on a common database where the students can access, copy and print it.
The above examples of our Chuck Close Portrait Lesson were created by classes of twenty students aged between 12 and 13 years. Each section of the overall image was painted on a sheet of A3 cartridge paper (200gms) using the small round tempera blocks that you find in most schools. We hope you have as much fun working on this project as the students who created our examples.