Amy Sherald is an artist from Baltimore, Maryland (my place of origin, too) and she is known for her achromatic portraits of African-Americans with colorful backgrounds and clothing. I introduced some of her work to my students and then should them her portrait of the former First Lady Michelle Obama. The colors she chooses for her backgrounds, and her emphasis on the outfits of her models are a way of explaining the identity of her subject. Similarly, I asked my students to choose a background color that fit the personality of their subjects. Students were asked to partner up with another student, photograph them and then grid their portraits so that they could scale them up to twice the original photographs size. This gridding technique also helped my students maintain proportions. We used charcoal and chalk pastels to do our work, because we have already painted this year I wanted to maximize my students experiences with different medias this year.
SHE ALWAYS BELIEVED THE GOOD ABOUT THOSE SHE LOVED, 2018, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on Canvas, amysherald.com .
The finished works turned out beautifully and will surely be a hug hit at the Spring Arts Festival at our school.
Finally, to finish up and reflect on the project I decided to try something other than our traditional critique format. Instead, students left “constructive compliments” on post-it notes on each of their fellow students artwork. Similar to what they would have done during a critique, but in a very efficient way. I have larger class sizes this year, and while it is really important to me that my students learn to have a traditional critique, I also want to maximize the amount of feedback each student gets and this felt like a nice way to do it.