Sunday, November 9, 2008

How to Host a Class Portrait Party

Art Problem: Students will draw portraits of each other.
Grades: Appropriate for all ages
Time: Adjustable

A stop watch or a clock with a second hand
Drawing Materials, a wide variety if possible
A firm drawing surface (clipboards, hardcover books, etc.)

Step 1: Introduce the Lesson
Explain what a portrait party is: Students will take turns drawing each other. Portrait parties are a fun way to introduce students to a wide variety of artists and art skills. If you intend to use the party to teach a lesson, now is the time. David Hockney and Lucian Freud had a portrait party. So did Pissarro and Gauguin. What are the proportions of the head and face? Gesture drawing? Blind contour? Sighting techniques? You teach it, they'll listen in anticipation of the party.

Step 2: Organize the Students
Students can pair off for a portrait party lesson but, in my experience, small groups work better. Teams of three students are better for short classes. Four or five for longer classes. A third student minimizes group conflict, motivates the model to stay still, and challenges the second artist to try harder. One student will model while the rest of the team draws. Students will take turns modeling.

Step 3: Warm Up
Start the party with a quick round of portraits. 30 second, one minute, or two minute portraits all work well. So, adjust this round to your class time. The quick round insures that every student gets a chance to draw and to model. It also gets the students' creativity going and shows everyone how easy and how hard it is to draw and to model. By comparison, the next round - A five minute pose - seems like all the time in the world. If you are teaching a specific art skill, now is a good time to quietly assess the students before individual teaching begins. Give the students a few seconds to share their portraits between rounds.

Step 4: The Party Begins!
Continue the party with a series of 5 - 10 minutes poses depending on the students' ages and maturity level. Remind the students of the skills they should be practicing while drawing. Start the timer. Tour the room and offer individual instruction while the students work. A group portrait party is ideal for this kind of instruction because none of the portraits become too precious ~ Students can blame bad drawings on the time limit ~ and the students will do several portraits in a short period so you have that many opportunities to gauge their progress and adjust your instructions.

Step 5: Assessment
By the end of the portrait party, each student will have created a small series of portraits. Assessment always varies but the series itself offers students and teachers a wonderful evaluation. Did the portraits improve throughout the series? Students enjoy a huge ego boost when you can put the portraits in order and prove their success to them.

Have fun!

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