Self-Portraits and Popular Culture

By McCutcheon, Heather | Arts & Activities, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Self-Portraits and Popular Culture


McCutcheon, Heather, Arts & Activities


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The week before starting this project, I asked my studio art students to each bring in an object or picture of something that is currently popular in our culture. I also took a head shot of each student with a digital camera. I did not tell the students what we were going to do with the items or their photographs.

The following week, class began with me showing the students my digital camera. We talked about the way digital cameras have changed our lives, and the impact they've had on culture, industry and technology.

We then talked about the pop-culture items--logos, photos of celebrities, video games, DVDs, cell phones, iPods, etc.--students had brought to class, spending about 40 minutes of the class discussing how materials in our culture change with their popularity.

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Next, we talked about Pop art and viewed works of art by Pop artists, such as Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe, both from 1962. We compared and contrasted these artworks with the present-day pop-culture items students had brought in.

BRAINSTORM! After discussing Pop art, I shared with the students the example artwork I had created. We talked about the steps I had taken to create it, starting with the photo of myself and transferring it to paper. With the process outlined, it was time for the students to brainstorm. During the last portion of the first class, the students sketched ideas and thought about what they would use as the background for their portraits, as they had to add something from pop culture in the background.

BEGINNING THE PROCESS Students came to the second class with ideas for their backgrounds, and I announced it was time to start creating their Pop artstyle self-portraits. Students were each given a printout of the black-and-white picture of themselves I had taken with my digital camera. (I had enlarged the photos so the faces were about the size of the printer paper.) With this picture, students took tracing paper and traced a basic outline of their face, hair and neck. I walked around the room helping students, making sure that they had also put in their eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth and ears.

TRANSFERRING THE PORTRAITS Once the students were done tracing their portraits, they took a scrap sheet of printer paper and covered one side of the sheet with a coat of graphite lead, using pencils. Once the paper was fully covered with graphite, it was time to transfer the portrait.

Students were to transfer their portraits onto "good paper" at least three times. When ready, they placed the graphite-covered sheet face down over the good paper, and then placed the tracing paper on top. …

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