This March we spent the entire month exploring the art of a self portrait and the value technique called grisaille. The Oxford Dictionary defines as, “Grisaille (/ɡrᵻˈzaɪ/ or /ɡrᵻˈzeɪl/; French: gris [ɡʁizaj] ‘grey’) is a term for a painting executed entirely in shades of grey or of another neutral greyish colour.” I think we all know what a self portrait is.
Anyways my idea was that in order to teach about painting with more emphasis on value and less on color matching we would begin with a grisaille painting and finish it in color.
I also took photographs of each girl in a pose she was comfortable with, with raking light moving across her face. This gave them more depth in the values they were working with. You can see them holding the photos as they work for reference. Unfortunately there is a lot of natural light in my room. Unfortunately? Well anyways it is near impossible to recreate lighting arrangements because the skylights fill the room with light i a myriad number of ways on any given day, and due to the nature of our rotating block schedule we meet at a different time each day of the week. So I made the executive decision that instead of working from mirrors (like we had with our sketches and drawings in previous lessons) we would work from photographs.
Only once they had finished their gray could they move on to color. This was an prodigious success, because it prevented them from flattening their faces and making them one solid shade of beige or brown, like I had seen in previous models of this lesson. I would highly recommend this technique for teaching value to an advanced high school art class.