Chuck Close was both an accomplished painter and photographer. He 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. Chuck Close said, “I discovered 150 dots is the minimum number of dots to make a specific recognizable person.”
Paint was his first choice of medium, but as he experimented with his portraits, he started mixing all types of media. In this lesson, students will work in the style of photorealism and create a self-portrait using a grid method. While paint was the medium of choice in the original lesson plan, a fun alternative for students would be 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, and 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.
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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Mary Reilly received her BA with an emphasis in textile design from Mount Mary University in Wisconsin. She studied at the Wetterhoff Institute of Craft and Design in Hämeenlinna, Finland, as well as took numerous post-graduate courses in fine arts. Mary has over 15 years of experience with Sax Arts & Crafts, developing and shaping a national team of Art Consultants who have conducted art education and professional development workshops to elementary, middle, and high school art educators across the United States and Canada.
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Nadine Dresbach received her Masters and Undergraduate Degrees in Art Education from Kent State University. She began her teaching career at Canton City Schools and Kent State University in Ohio. In 1995 she was hired by Sax Arts and Crafts as an Art Consultant and Category Sales Manager representing School Specialty at conferences and professional development sessions. Nadine also creates artwork and lesson plans for the company. Her other teaching experiences include instruction and Internship Supervisor for Winthrop University in Rock Hill South Carolina as well as work for the Rock Hill and Union County School Districts and St. Anne Catholic School.
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