Chuck Close, both an accomplished painter and photographer, combined his two favorite arts to become part of the first generation of painters to use the style of painting we call Photorealism. Close brought portraits to life using a simple grid method. After photographing his subject matter, Close would print the image and then create a grid over the image. He would then transfer this grid to his canvas. Once completed. he would undercoat his canvas with a light base color and then start to paint, grid by grid, the colors he saw until he covered the entire canvas. Paint was his first choice of medium but as he experimented with his portraits, he started mixing all types of media. Chuck Close said, “I discovered 150 dots is the minimum number of dots to make a specific recognizable person”.
In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to work in the style of photorealism and create a portrait of themselves using a grid method. Paint was the medium of choice in the original lesson plan you see below. As a fun alternative, we suggest that students consider using magazine paper swatches instead. An extensive range of colors can be found in magazines. Students will have to select colors and group accordingly. They may want to use all colors, warm or cool colors, or use a grey scale for this lesson. Colors swatches should be sorted into containers for ease of use: all yellows in one container, all reds in another, etc. Once a student has collected and sorted their paper swatches, they can begin their portrait. First, they will need to take a selfie, print it, and then grid the printed selfie. The grid needs to be transferred to a canvas or board in the same proportions as done on the selfie. Once this transfer is done, students should start to paint or paste their swatches starting in one corner, grid square by grid square, working across the canvas.
Chuck Close-Inspired Self Portrait Art Project Objectives
- Students will learn how to use a grid method to create a self-portrait.
- Students will experiment with color matching and identification to select the appropriate colors for the self-portrait.
- Students will develop math skills in learning how to transfer an image using a grid system.
- Students will study the works of Chuck Close and other Photorealists.
Tips for the Chuck Close-Inspired Self Portrait
- Encourage students to take a selfie that features a unique look such as a bright smile, the way glasses are worn, etc.
- Select a color pallet that you feel comfortable with and one that has a wide range of intensities and values. Don’t stray with colors all over the color wheel.
- Cut color swatches in the same size as grid squares. Sort by colors and values.
- Chuck Close is a very interesting artist who has overcome many challenges in life. Research and enjoy his uplifting story.
More Portrait Art Lesson Plans & Ideas
Want to try something else? Be sure to check out these other art lesson plans and view our Art Lesson Plan collection for even more.
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After 24 years as a college admissions director, Mary crossed over to provide the materials for art education as a member of Sax, first as manager of Inside Sales, then as National Sales Manager. Mary has overseen a team of 15 art consultants. In 2000 Mary and her team created Sax Lesson Plan Book partnerships with prominent art supplies vendors. Meanwhile, she has refined her own artful style of presentation at various national, state and local conferences.
For Nadine, art education has been her life’s work, including an Ohio teaching license, 5 years teaching elementary art, and 19 years in higher education (teacher prep). She has served Sax for 25 years as a Category Account Manager, Art Consultant, and Subject Matter Expert. In the latter capacity, Nadine has presented at various national, state, and local conferences.