Value Portraits

Self-portraits with a strong difference in value created in Saturday Art School.

In order for students to understand the value in a portrait, students created self-portraits with high contrast. Students began by looking at examples of portraits that were done with high contrast with high light, mid-tone, and shadow. We discussed why artists would want to display value in this way and how the artists might have created these pieces. For their project, students were given black paper and white charcoal pencils. The classroom was set up for the students to be in strong lighting with clip lights. They began by adding the lightest light and working their way through the mid-tone. They left the black of the paper as the shadow. Students began with quick sketches of someone else in the class and then did two longer poses with mirrors and easels. By the end of class, students understood how in a drawing there is a value scale and carefully observing that value will yield a portrait with dimension and contrast.

Student Work


 © 2019 by Danielle  White

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