Value Study and Famous Artists' Styles

By Vieth, Ken | School Arts, September 1994 | Go to article overview
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Value Study and Famous Artists' Styles

Vieth, Ken, School Arts

This unit in portrait study was developed in two parts with the aim of incorporating art history into high school art studio projects. The first assignment was a value study of the human head with emphasis on proportion. The purpose of the second project was to incorporate the style of a famous artist into a color problem in painting or drawing.

Part One: Black and White

A filmstrip, Drawing a Likeness (Educational Dimensions Group) introduced the black-and-white self-portrait assignment. It stressed the importance of measurement, the close study of head proportions, the use of light lines to measure out those proportions, and the use of line and handling of materials. It reminded viewers that shading for tonal values is last in the process of building the portrait. I reassured the students that likeness is a quality that takes time, skill and increased perception. They should not expect professional results at the beginning. For some, this skill could take years to develop. Therefore, the evaluation was based not on likeness but on how well students applied the proper proportions and on their development of the value study.

To increase the students' knowledge and skill, I referred them to Betty Edwards' book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. On page 143, Edwards outlines human proportions in a way that increases visual awareness and observes relationships that increase visual perception.

Portrait Study

To warm up for the self-portrait study, the students used four class periods to develop a portrait study of another student. This gave students an opportunity to apply the basic information from the filmstrip and to focus on the proportions of the human face. I instructed the students in the use of a variety of pencils ranging from H to 6B on 12 x 18[inches] (31 x 46 cm) white vellum paper. I emphasized the use of sharp pencils and stressed the necessity of keeping the work clean. This warm-up study led into the five periods students used for a black-and-white self-portrait study. Each student had a 12[inches] (31 cm) square mirror to work from, so the reflections were of uniform size. One good feature of self-portraits is that students can't complain about the model moving!

After the measurement stage was finished in line and the shading was to begin, I showed the students examples of other black-and-white portrait studies. The drawings of Dutch artist M. C. Escher provided good motivation. Esher's self-portraits are skilled examples of the depth in tone that is created from the richness of black to light gray and the use of white space. This assignment was a focused concentration that increased visual awareness and perception.

Part Two: Color

In this assignment, students selected a famous artist and used that artist's style in a self-portrait drawing or painting. We devoted a couple of class periods to looking at resources so that the students could select an artist whose style they liked.

I made an effort to have only two students in each class assigned to the same artist. I asked the students to have at least two resource references related to their chosen artist in front of them as they worked. The media had to be consistent with what the artist used. The size of the work was optional. Some students worked 12 x 18[inches] (31 x 46 cm) while others worked as large as 8 x 5[feet] (2.44 x 1.52 m).

X-Ray Art

The artroom was transformed into a working gallery. We had interpretations of Renoir, van Gogh, Matisse, Disney, Rockwell, Rousseau, Picasso, Hockney, Wood, Cassatt, Gauguin, Dali and da Vinci.

An eleventh grade student was captivated by X-rays in an example of American artist Robert Rauschenberg's mixed media pieces and appreciated his freedom of expression in using unique materials. As a dancer, she liked the idea of including the entire human anatomy in her presentation. She was also interested in bone structure.

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