As the art teacher and the school counselor, we try to join efforts each year to create a lesson that will cover both of the curriculums and connect with our students in a different way. This year we decided to create “emotion portraits.” During early adolescence, many students have difficulty sharing emotions in front of their peers. This project enables them to each choose a feeling and express it through art.
Starting with a Story
We began by reading The Way I Feel (Parenting Press, 2000), written and illustrated by Janan Cain. The story covers a wide range of emotions and contains illustrations of people who are feeling them. We discussed some of these emotions on a personal level and asked students to find a partner and discuss some of the emotions they were feeling at that moment.
Students really opened up to one another. We were amazed at the conversations they wre having and how in-depth they were going into their feelings. Some students chose to share their personal stories with the class, and that made everyone else feel more comfortable expressing their own.
Students looked once again to their partners, this time making faces and expressing to one another visually what they feel the emotions looked like. By doing this, students were able to determine which emotion they wished to portray in their artworks.
Once students figure out which emotion they wanted to draw, they set to creating portraits. During this time, we discussed the different proportions of the face and how it is balanced. We encouraged students to distort these proportions in different ways to better portray the emotion they chose.
Coloring the faces was a fun process for students. They enjoyed considering which colors might match the emotions they were drawing. Some went for a rainbow of color to portray silliness, while others chose warm or cool colors to show happiness or sadness. Each portrait was highly unique. Students colored their portraits with watercolor pencils and then added water, and they were amazed by how their drawings transformed.
Students used watercolors for the hair and straws to blow it into a crazy mess. Once again, we discussed how colors change according to the emotion being expressed and most students considered this prior to adding the paint.
Writing and Reflecting
In the end, students reflected on the emotion they chose in a writing assessment, expressing why they chose that particular emotion and when in their lives they may have experienced it.
Students enjoyed this project and were excited to participate in each part of the process. Many students who were having an especially emotional moment in their personal lives appeared to have found an outlet in this project, while others who were happy-go-lucky in their emotional state portrayed these emotions in a happy way, and often made funny faces while doing it.
Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
Reprinted with permission from SchoolArts Magazine. Visit their website: www.schoolartsdigital.com