4th Grade Value Portraits

This project has been modified from a lesson I saw in a magazine where a high school teacher had her students make stencils from a picture and then spray paint it.  I was really drawn to the idea of using positive/negative space in a way in which a portrait is recognizable.

I originally planned to do this project with paint, but after attempting it for my example I switched to colored pencils.

While the the students were finishing up their previous project I took their picture.  I set up an old overhead and had them stand at about a 1/4 turn away from the light - giving me the optimal light vs dark on their faces.  They could smile, be serious, or even do a silly face!  I downloaded those into my computer, changed them to black and white, and then altered the exposure, highlights, and shadows till I got white, one level of grey and black.  These were then printed out on 8.5/11 pieces of paper.

The next class we taped drawing paper on top - took a pencil to the window and traced only what we saw.  I had the students trace their faces upside down.  Many students laughed and asked why and I explained that our brain recognizes faces much too easily and we needed to trick it so that it will see shapes.  The students traced only what they saw - lights, mediums, darks.  If they could not see their eye they did not trace it!

After tracing their faces many students exclaimed both how awesome and strange it looked!

My Example.
For the next two classes the students spent coloring in the correct values determined by their photograph.  The students picked one color for their head, another for their shirt and the complementary color of their head was for the background.  I did a demonstration on how to figure out what color when where - focus on one little shape, hold to the light, observe, put on the table and color.  Pressing hard with a colored pencil creates a dark color, pressing medium produces the same color or lighter, and then barely touching the paper with the colored pencil creates the lightest value needed.

These are breathtaking - the students worked very hard and are impressed to find that it actually looks like themselves!

(I have permission to use these pictures, but in order to protect my students I have cropped them to make them less recognizable.)

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