Encourage students to look at themselves differently, as they explore Emma Delpech’s thoughtful and inspiring suggestions on the theme of the self-portrait…
Starting by creating a self portrait using only a box of recycled materials, this lesson moves on to layer portrait photo in Photoshop and develop sculptures based on artist research before coming together to discuss the outcomes as a group.
The theme of self-portraiture is so endlessly versatile to the art teacher and it is relatively easy to engage students in the issues surrounding the idea of representing oneself in unconventional ways.
Not quite the pasta-piece portrait of the budding 5-year-old artist, but something that employs deeper levels of understanding, psychology and self-reflection.
The key element of this unit would be the potential for understanding the portrait within a range of contexts whereby the restrictions of photographic realism are absolutely removed.
This enables students of all abilities to have full access to the top mark range. It connects on a very personal level with each student, exploring the dynamics of physical appearance, personality, self-respect, independence etc.
My favourite element of this type of work is in studying aspiration, as well as what we feel makes us satisfied or happy and where we feel life is taking us. Abstraction, distortion, layering, humour; all of these can provide excellent learning tools and develop simplistic work to a much more mature and considered final outcome.
- Discuss how important it is that you can be identified from a self-portrait
- Consider why artists use self-portrait as a subject matter so frequently (is it self-obsession, ease of access to subject matter, a way of expressing angst/distress/sadness, or of achieving immortality?)
- Be recorded in a digital triptych having considered which three expressions will work in collaboration as well as their significance to you. Do they reflect your personality or disguise it?
- Discuss cultural ‘identity’; how and why we dress differently; what our clothing says about us, how we judge others based on their appearance, how the media encourage us to feel insecure about how we look and encourage us to spend money to ‘look and feel better’
- Use layering in Photoshop to digitally combine an image of yourself with an image you have appropriated – this new image is fictional; what does this tell us about the artist?
- Create a careful series of drawing, photographs and digitally edited images developing the idea of incorporating layers within your self-portrait
- Make a clay model based on your collection of interesting portrait images
- Photograph the finished model and Photoshop this image into previous studies, allowing the imagery to combine effectively
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