Capturing Essence Through Portraiture

Capturing Essence Through Portraiture

This visual literacy assignment consists of three creative stages, which will lead to the creation of a critical visual and literary emotional response. It has been set out as suggested in the article, “3 Stages of Teaching” Jerry Ameis, Ph. D.

Activating Stage of the Art Project

Activating Stage of the Art Project

In the introductory stage, ask the students to explore the qualities of characters. Ask students to find a well known person that interests them or who they admire. Give students a set time within which to introduce their character to the class as a presentation.

Ask them to talk about the contribution that character has made to society. If the student chooses a character whose behaviour and activities are seen by some to have harmed society, ask them to talk about this in a positive way. Do this by showing them how to critique actions without resorting to shaming or blaming.

Use an Example of Deconstruction

The cover of War Cry featured below is an example of a journalist drawing student attention to contrasting behaviour without shame or blame. Find magazines like War Cry and ask the students to look at the way the writers talk about people and their behaviour. As you do this, ask the students what they think the term role model means. Ask them to think about the people they choose to follow and why and visit here.

As you deconstruct the magazine cover, ask the students to think about whether the writers are making a point about the duties and role of famous people.

Look at the juxtaposition of people and the composition of the page and encourage the students to talk about the issues the writers are bringing forward.

The Acquiring Stage – Practical Application

By now the students will be ready to explore their ideas visually. Give the students materials and ask them to draw the subject of their research. This must be someone they can discuss later with regards qualities others might follow.

  1. Decide on the proposed dimensions of the work with the students before you begin. If you will need to scan the work so that you can enhance it in graphic software, keep the size to around A4 (8 *11 inch)
  2. Ask them to draw the person as realistically as possible. The drawing of Ghandi featured below, is an example of a simple pencil sketch with colour pencil enhancements in the background. Do encourage the student to keep the artwork simple.
  3. When they are happy with their drawing, ask them to pick out a dominant feature that belongs to this person. This is the feature to be amplified. In the case of the Ghandi, the feature finally selected to be amplified was the eyes behind the glasses. This is because the lens of the glasses magnified the way he looked out onto the world. A circle became the motif selected to be the dominant shape within the composition.

Contrast What Does Not Work

Give the students plenty of time to play in the graphic software. Ask them to cut and splice, mixing and matching bits and pieces the way Picasso did. Continually remind them that they are looking for a dominant motif to amplify as a way of capturing character.

This picture called Laughing Ghandi was rejected as not typical of the way that people think of Ghandi.

Drawing The Work Together With Text

When the students come up with a basic composition and are happy with the initial layout, lead them in the quest to find a word that captures the essence of the quality amplified. In this case the word was “Mobilise”. Ghandi was able to mobilise a whole nation because of his fresh insight about the way people experience the world. A simple play on words transformed this magnification into Mobileyes.

Ask them to introduce this word in a way that compliments the composition, giving it a final finished feeling. In this case, there was a need for one last addition in illustrator and that was people walking. Ghandi inspired a whole pilgrimage to the sea so that people could harvest salt.

Applying Stage of an Art Project

To keep learning alive and the conversations vibrant, print out the digital images and paste them to card or frame them. The whole class will benefit when they see the wide variety of ways students arrived at their final composition.

Here are some ways that you could conduct a class conversation around this body of work.

You could

  • conduct an appreciative inquiry
  • initiate a class discussion about the way the deconstruction and reconstruction process has changed student perceptions of models.
  • encourage the students to write a reflexive/reflective essay about how they have internalized critical visual literacy experience. A topic could be “What Kind Of Model Am I?” or “What Type of Model Do I Wish To Be?”

This project is designed to give students opportunities to master the skills required for portraiture and abstract composition. Emotional competence is encouraged when students explore critical emotional response through artistic process.