23 Feb 2014

Modern 3/4 portraits

Inspiration for these has come via my favourite art blog Deep Space Sparkle and was ideal for beginning our painting art focus for this term. Ours did not turn out as 'true to type' as what was in the DSS lesson but we are really thrilled with the 'modern' look our portraits have taken on!
In the first week of school we wrote 'I am...' poems and I wanted the pupils to paint portraits of themselves; they have always done full-face portraits so agreed they are ready to try a different angle.

We found these images of self-portraits by Van Gogh on Google images:

First we practised the line drawings as advised by Deep Space Sparkle - we used 1/2 A4 and pencils, doing two attempts before then moving onto A4 paper, first with pencil, then with crayons.

Next, we moved onto A3 black paper (the paint colours we will be using are so bright, we think they will look good on the black paper - it will be something different for a change!)  The outlines were done with white chalk (easy to paint over).

We first painted the faces and features. We aimed to be using short brush strokes like Van Gogh used.

Next we painted the background, our focus being to have a mixture of colours, again with the short brush strokes.

Our next step, once the paint was dry, was to add some highlighting detail with black outlines on the main features - we did this with black oil pastels.

Don't they look fantastic?!

Normally I would launch into a painting unit by first working the children through a couple of sessions of brush techniques and colour mixing.  But for this activity I just wanted to get a quick product so we could display them to make the room colourful and it has also given me a baseline to see what the pupils can do.

As we worked I talked about the importance of proportion (ie large paper, so draw the features much larger) and emphasised the correct way to hold a brush, as well as the use of newspaper to clean the brush before getting the next colour (I do not as a rule use jars of water for cleaning brushes while painting).

I did not really have a set criteria - just wanted the children to do what they could.  We will have more specific learning outcomes as the painting  unit progresses.


  1. You just blew my mind with the idea of using newspaper to clean a brush, and not using water. I can't wait to try this! Thank you for your wonderful art lesson too!

  2. Hi, thanks for stopping by. I am not sure where or when exactly I got the tip about the newspaper but I have been using it for at least ten years. Sure beats having either a hundred brushes (ie one for each colour and children take turns) or having jars of water (which children either just tip over or spend all their time swirling the brushes in and getting the brushes, and paint, all wet!) I just rip up sheets of newspaper into A4 size 'rags' that the children fold in half and put their brushes into and squeeze to 'dry'. Also helps to encourage them to not have a ton of paint on the brush to start with! Give it a try, you will be hooked!

  3. Thanks for your fabulous tip about the newspaper clean up. Saves on water as well! Love these portraits, wonderful job from your kiddos....