For this self-portrait project, 4th graders learned all about Italian artist Modigliani. I was actually not familiar with this artist until starting my teaching job at EDS and found an old print while cleaning out the art room. This print had been residing under stacks of old art textbooks and dried out clay, so it was wrinkled and dusty on the corners. I immediately connected with the portrait, did some research, and learned as much as I could about Modigliani.
Modigliani is best known for his modern-style portraits depicting people with elongated necks, faces, and bodies. As we looked through his portraits, several students commented on the ‘strange’ long necks and ‘hypnotizing’ blank eyes. I asked students if Modigliani followed the “rules” for mapping out the human face, features, and neck. Students agreed that No, Modigliani did not follow the rules. They agreed that Modigliani intentionally broke the rules to establish his own unique style and way of painting portraits.
Before we kicked off this project, I asked 4th graders to envision themselves sometime in the future. As a teenager, as a young adult, or as an older adult. I told them that this self portrait should embrace not only who they are now, but who they want to be.
We got started by creating some horizontal folds in their black sheets of construction paper. These folds helped 4th graders map out their drawings and figure out elongated proportions for their drawings. Students created long ovals for faces connecting to long and skinny necks. We added eyes, noses, lips, and hair keeping in mind the style of Modigliani.
After our facial features were drawn in and outlined with chalk, I demonstrated how to blend various skin tones. I explained to 4th graders that we all have different colors that make up our skin and I encouraged students to mix around on a sheet of scrap paper. After experimenting with different colors, students took various colors of chalk pastel and blended flesh tone into their necks and faces.
Next, 4th graders went through and outlined their faces, features, necks, and shoulders in dark brown or black chalk. I showed students how to add shadows in certain places in the face, such as under the neck, by carefully blending in the dark pastel line with the skin tone. Then, I completed my sample portrait in one final demonstration. I showed students how to streak various colors through their hair (without over-blending,) blend colors for a shirt, and complete a simple background design. Here are some pictures of 4th graders finishing up their details!Check out some finished Modigliani-inspired self-portraits! I love them.
4th graders did an amazing job on this project. They showed me they were able to change their own drawing styles to fit the style of Modigliani. Their self portraits are clearly a study of Modigliani, but still express so much of our 4th graders’ personalities. I love these and think these self-portraits truly represent a milestone: they are an insightful mix of who they are now and who they want to grow into.
Great job and have a wonderful summer!