Magazine article School Arts

Raggedy Portraits

Magazine article School Arts

Raggedy Portraits

Article excerpt

"My grandmother had them, my folks had them, and I have them too," hummed my first grader as she hugged my set of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. Being one of the first of three generations to receive a Christmas set of the strange dolls with orange hair and triangle noses, I was bemused by the fact that these dolls, and the stories about them, have enchanted children for over a half-century. These icons of the doll world make a perfect approach to portraiture for young children. The large round heads, rectangular bodies, and easily drawn limbs are the stuff from which cartoons are made. They have been handled, hugged and held until the familiarity of their shapes are second nature to children.

Portraying a Tradition

My first graders beamed at the idea of making portraits of them. Before beginning, we talked of the family tradition of Raggedy Ann and Andy, while the dolls themselves sat on a small old fashioned ladder-back chair at the front of the room. This would be a perfect way to review line and shape elements and introduce portraiture. We also discussed how a portrait was different from other kinds of paintings, and why people might wish to have a portrait of a doll. I had placed photographs of dolls and reproductions of artists' doll portraits on the chalkboard. Holding up Raggedy Andy, I asked what shapes had been used when making his body. The answer was simple--circles and rectangles. Drawing these dolls would be a natural, easy process for the students.

Supplies were passed out quickly: a 4" (10 cm) square scrap of construction paper, 12 x 18" (30 x 46 cm) white construction paper, a piece of chalk, and a wide, black magic marker. The children cut circles as wide as possible from the squares of construction scrap paper, then moved them around on their white paper to find a good location for the dolls' heads in the upper half of the paper. …

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