Monday, February 27, 2017

Creative Student Portraits

Here are two creative portraits I made of two of my junior-year students, in different styles and media:

Student Portrait 1: "Wild Child"                               Student Portrait 2: "Under Construction"

Pencil and watercolor pencil on paper                       Ink and watercolor on paper

For the long story:

I had my junior students do a project called "Gift Portrait". They had to select a partner and create a portrait that would capture the look -but more importantly, the likeness- of their subject and in addition give their image a creative twist. At the end, they were to give the portrait as a gift to their partner.

The media was to be selected accordingly and reflect aspects of their partner's interests, personality, etc. This is a very advanced project for a group of students that are exceptionally capable of succeeding at an assignment like this. Still, it's a huge challenge to do portraiture in general, let alone without the use of photographs, grids, etc, and also adding elements of imagination. After just the healthy amount of eye-rolling and complaining, they were ready to be challenged.

Somehow I miscalculated, and it turned out both my class groups had an odd number of students. So they jumped into the opportunity and insisted I join them by doing the project myself. I usually do not do this, but have been known to do it on occasion. Unlike popular belief, it is not always great to demonstrate or provide specific examples for students in creative areas doing projects where they are encouraged to explore and be imaginative. For creative projects, I may even refuse to show them examples of student work from previous years, or any visual reference at all, because it can influence their decisions and generally limits the scope of creative possibilities that students naturally discover on their own. After all, conventional education often conditions students to assume that there is one "right answer" to any given assignment, so they might assume that their portrait should look exactly like mine in order to receive a good grade.

In either case, "for this time only", I accepted the challenge and altogether this became a really wonderful experience for both the students and I. It was awesome: when the kids would do their usual complaining: "this is so haaard" or "how do you expect us to do this in a weeeeeek?" I would say: "look, I'm sitting here showing so and so how to shade an eyelid right now, and I HAVE TWO portraits to finish! If I can do two, you can at least do one." They would be like "ok, you're right.." and get back to work. Also, I never do this type of thing for many reasons, but I admit it felt great for once to brag and respond to their usual skepticism and defiance and be like, boom kids, here you go, just in case you might have thought I didn't know what I was talking about! ;)

So we all worked hard for two weeks: one for process and one for the final product. I ended up creating cool portraits for two of my students and got a portrait of me from each of them in return. We all pushed ourselves to do our best and had a mutual learning experience. The kids expressed having challenged and enjoyed themselves, creating a satisfactory final product and learning a lot in the process. And I am happy to say that my two students loved their portraits and felt like I represented them well, and said they would keep them forever. For mine, one of them used mahogany ink, just like I use, and the other made me into a Magic card! I will sure keep those, and the memory of a good experience that accompanies them.

Thanks for visiting!


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