Impressionist Self Portraits

Lesson Plan by Amanda E. Gross
National Visual Art Standards: 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5
Cognitive, affective, & psychomotor skills
18 Sessions

[click to view my Mark-making Worksheet or Quiz]

Unit Title: The Human Face
Unit Goal: Some artists choose to emphasize particular elements when describing the human face’s nuances & expressive qualities.
Lesson Title: Impressionist / Post-Impressionist Self Portrait
Lesson Goals: Impressionist & some Post-Impressionist artists focused on light, color, mark- making, & informality – an impression – when depicting the human face.

Lesson Objectives:  As a result of instruction, students will be able to:

  1. Complete a worksheet in which they describe an artist’s style & recreate it with torn paper.
  2. Trace their self-portrait in pencil.
  3. Create a self-portrait in torn paper, in the style of their assigned artist.
  4. Work consistently during class, follow instructions, perform required tasks & meet due dates.
  5. Write a reflection about the project & participate in a critique of their own and peers’ work.
  6. Answer Study Questions and proficiently complete an in-class quiz on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism

Vocabulary Words: Impressionism, optical mixing, light, series, color, Realism, Expressionism, Pointillism, cropping, Post- Impressionism

Visual References: 

Left to right: my self portrait (Amanda E. Gross), my Mark-making Worksheet, Gerald F. Brommer’s Discovering Art History, images by Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissaro,
Mary Cassatt, & Edgar Degas. Additional resources: a Powerpoint presentation, demos of the self-portrait process (Photobooth photo, portrait tracing onto new paper, & the torn paper end-result) & the worksheet, as well as students’ internet research.

Instructional Support Materials: Powerpoint presentation, textbook, computer lab for internet research and printing, laptop “dongle,” projector, screen, my worksheets, printer, email capability, light tables or windows for tracing, computer with Photobooth application.

Additional Supplies: Sketchbooks, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, glue sticks, & ArtForums laid out on tables, for students to rip pages from & be inspired by (consider removing any profanity first).

Assessment Strategies: Individual & group discussions, mark-making worksheet, study questions from textbook, observation during work time, mid-point & final critique, written reflection, final self-portrait.

Evaluation criteria / evidence of success: 

  • Student perceives & identifies several ways that their assigned artist used light, color, & marks. Student is also able to execute an accurate & thoughtful torn paper re-creation.
  • In student’s traced self-portrait, facial features are in proportion & areas of value difference are perceived & noted.
  • Student’s paper surface is covered with torn paper. Mark-making approach accurately represents assigned artist. Small bits of paper show facial detail. Student makes meaningful choices about using light and color in the style of their assigned artist.
  • Student utilizes class time properly & works relatively independently. Student proficiently performs required tasks, & all due dates are met.
  • Student’s reflection answers all prompt questions, is insightful, & utilizes good grammar & spelling skills. Student eagerly offers polite & thoughtful comments during the final critique.
  • Student carefully reads the assigned textbook chapter & thoughtfully answers all Study Questions. Quiz is completed in a manner that demonstrates internalized understanding.

Class Progression:
Days 1-3: 
1. Introduction of project, and initial motivation:  Students read “Impressionism & Post-Impressionism” in the Discovering Art History textbook, & answer study questions.
2. Group discussion: Why do people make self-portraits?  How do you want to capture yourself?
3. Explore: Students take their photos one at a time on the classroom computer, using Photobooth. Remind students that even if they don’t like how they look in the photos, they are capturing a moment, an impression. The casual, informal nature of the photo also lends itself to this.

Day 4: 
1. Motivation: Students receive handout on project criteria.
2. Watch Powerpoint and hold group discussion:

  • Who were some Impressionist artists?  What countries, genders, and social classes did they belong to?
  • What were the Impressionists rebelling against, what did art look like that directly preceded the movement?
  • How did light affect the work?
  • What was the mark-making like, & how might our mark-making look for this project?
  • What sorts of scenes were depicted & why?  How will our portraits relate to the Impressionists’ work?
  • What were the Impressionists trying to capture, what we should be thinking about  if we want to think like Impressionists?

Day 5:
1.Research: Students use the computer lab to research their artists.
2. Each student selects an image of the artist’s work (from the internet or scanned from a book.) Student should crop off a small section, zoom in, & print the “detail” image to recreate on the mark-making worksheet.

Day 6:
1.Understanding Impressionist mark-making: Demonstrate how to complete the mark-making worksheet, using a blown-up “detail” image (i.e. by Paul Gauguin).
2. Students complete the worksheet: They write how their artist used light, paint, what sorts of colors appear next to each other, etc. They then recreate the blow-up “detail” image from a painting by their artist, using paper torn from ArtForum magazines, focusing on employing the mark- making and color of their artist. Students consider What was that artist trying to capture and how does their mark-making relate to that?

Days 7 – 18:
1. Students finish the mark-making worksheet.
2. Students trace their self-portrait photos onto a new piece of paper, using a window or light table. With a pencil, they should block off the light & dark areas.
3. Create a self-portrait in an Impressionist style: Using paper torn from ArtForum magazines, students recreate their self-portraits onto the new paper. They should consider the tones and colors used by their artists. Why are we tearing the paper instead of cutting it?
4. Reflection At the midpoint (around Day 14) hold a class critique and quiz review:

  • Students should tack their portraits to a wall, and sit around them, in a circle or at a large table.  They should bring their mark-making worksheets, as well as their sketchbooks, to write down suggestions, comments, and to take notes for the quiz review.
  • Class discussion: Who’s really showing light or color in an Impressionist style?  Do the self-portraits look realistic?  Does anyone else have a portrait they like & want to talk about?
  • Review the quiz terms: series, Pointillism, optical mixing, Expressionism, etc.

5. At around Day 16, hold an in-class quiz.

Day 18
1. Student portraits are due.
2. Written reflections.
3. Final critique.


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