Sunday, December 28, 2014

Lesson: Color Scheme Selfies

This semester I teach Design Concepts, which touches on a variety of art forms for students to "try out."  I developed the curriculum around the sketchbook model that Matt Milkowski and I have created (and will be presenting at the NAEA convention this year 2015). 
This particular project demonstrates the use of a selected Color Scheme to create a self portrait using torn collage (practiced in the media exploration unit).  
*I've seen different ways to do something like this.  This is a great project for students in a painting class... they can back paint the clear acetate.  Also, I did a watercolor version for my daughter's sketchbook cover.  So, there are a lot of possibilities for this simple and fun project.


1.  Students use my laptop (I walked it around to each table) to take Selfies using the Photo Booth Application.   *Next time I might incorporate the idea of PHOTO BOMBING (because many students did that anyway) and encourage them to include those in their final collages.  I asked them to consider expression, pushing them to be goofy.  Apparently only a few were feeling goofy that day.   *Again, next time I might focus on compositional techniques as practiced from Unit 1.  I think that the students would focus on that more IF they did include the PhotoBombers in their composition (i.e. cropping, rule of thirds, off center, etc.)

2.  I printed out the photos in grayscale to save on ink.  Students place their portraits inside the clear sleeve protector.  Of course, you could ideally use acetate.  Being new this year, I didn't have anything purchased for my assignments.  I found a large pack of the sheet protectors, so I used those. *Later I trimmed off the binder part of the sleeve.  
3.  Students used contour lines to draw out their portraits, hopefully focusing on small details.  We had already completed a unit on contour line drawings.  When I mentioned the idea of contour, students immediately thought, "Oh no!  I have to use one continuous line?!  Without looking???"  So there we go- I guess I need to be a little clearer as to what contour really is... not just the assignment we had completed (continuous contour and blind contour drawings with wire sculptures.  See other post).   We used fine point sharpies.  The ultra fine point are too light of line weight for this project.  

4.  Students then placed a blank white sheet of paper on top of their contour drawings and traced onto the paper.  This paper was then used as the sheet to loosely collage.

5.  Students choose a color scheme.  We talked about using emphasis to distinguish background from foreground.  We talked about using values in the colors to differentiate areas of the image that might use the same color (i.e. light orange versus burnt orange).  I chose complementary color scheme of blue and orange and noticed many of my students chose that one.  I originally thought it was because I had chosen it, but I think most kids actually chose it because they are our school colors.  

6.  Collage, collage, collage!  Use the clear protector every once in a while on top to check that you are happy with progress and placement.  

7.  Place finished collage inside the clear protector.  WA-LA!  

Made a COOL COLOR SCHEME (or monochromatic)
version to show a different way to create this.
The purple in the background is actually
a lap desk I used at home to work on.  

What?  Sun in the corner???  Still successful, right??!

"To be, or not to be..."
We had just finished Dia de los Muertos Pinch Pot Skulls.


  1. I have re-entered the world of art education after 14 years out. Raising kids, part time jobs, life changes etc. Thank you sooo much for sharing your ideas and processes. I taught K-12 in a very rural school to now teaching Art1 only in a large high school.

  2. This is such a neat assignment! With my 8th graders, we use acetate over a photo that I copy and they paint that copy using a color scheme. I've often thought it would be neat to do more with the acetate portraits. What is the title of your NAEA presentation? Do you know the day and time? Unfortunately, I am not able to attend, but I have friends who are and I would love for them to be in your session.

  3. Thanks Cynthia! There are definitely a ton of variations out there on this one. I'd love to see yours!
    I don't know the date/time yet, but it is titled "Rethinking the Sketchbook: A Curriculum Lifeline" I'm excited!

  4. And thanks, Anonymous! I can't imagine what it's like to leave and come back. Especially such a change!!

  5. Janet-
    I'm really interested in your presentation at NAEA. I have added 5th & 6th graders to my MS/HS teaching schedule and have decided this year to rethink the use of sketchbooks in my classroom. I'm approaching them quite differently this year and would love to hear your take on the subject. Unfortunately, I won't be attending NAEA this year but would love to hear more.

    1. Awesome, Shanise!
      We are working on making a file to send out as an overview of the sketchbook structure. Email me at and I will add you to that distribution list.

  6. LOVE THIS! I just accepted a job teaching art for grades 4-9 starting in fall. the middle schoolers would LOVE this. I am centering my curriculum around the idea of identity, what a great project for this!

  7. How many days did this take your kids to complete?

    1. Great question... Maybe a week total? Maybe a week and a half. We didn't get super detailed as I probably would if I did this again. We also were short on time at the end of the semester. It's a fairly fast one, though!

  8. I LOVE this! I am a beginning Art teacher and used this an an inspiration and will use it in my new class in the fall! Thanks SO much for sharing.

  9. Love this one! I may have missed it but what was the colored paper y'all used?? I see newspaper/magazines...was portraits done in construction paper, tissue paper??

  10. Hello! I used your idea with my Art 1 students and they really seemed to love the project. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Great project. I'm going to try in my son's 5th grade class that I volunteer in for art projects. Can you tell me if you used construction paper or colored tissue paper and what type of glue was used? Thanks, Amy