Sixth graders in Jackie D’Arco’s art classes – who have been learning about different contour portrait techniques and experimenting with color schemes as part of the artistic process – recently created their own self-portraits as a culminating project to their studies.
Having analyzed contour and blind contour portrait drawings by Henri Matisse and Ian Sklarsky, the students drew inspiration from the artists to create their own masterpieces. They began by drawing objects around the room and portraits of their classmates using the blind continuous contour drawing and continuous contour drawing techniques, before completing watercolor self-portraits in both techniques.
“Blind contour drawing is when the artists draw a subject without looking at their paper,” D’Arco said. “This requires the artist to remain focused on the subject without distraction and less focused on the outcome of the drawing. When drawing with one continuous line, students are challenged not to pick up their pencil when they draw.”
After several tries that required concentration and practice, the students traced the contours of a picture of themselves on acetate. Using multiple watercolor techniques, they incorporated analogous colors as background for their self-portraits and used complementary color schemes to paint their hair and clothes with acrylic paint. The technique allowed the watercolor washes to show through the piece of acetate where it was not painted.
“My favorite moment was when the students practiced drawing the same object or objects multiple times and they saw the growth in their own artwork,” D’Arco said. “When practicing drawing self-portraits, both blind and while looking at their paper, they flipped through their sketchbooks to compare their last drawings to their first drawings and saw how much they grew as artists.”
D’Arco said she hopes her students learned that art, just like any other activity, requires practice in order to see personal growth.