Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Studying self portraits and using iPads in the art room to createpersonal student portfolios

Self-Portrait by Tamara de Lemipicka 

For the link to the Drop box folder,
 referenced in the video click here.
The directions for this art lesson are included in this article however the Dropbox folder contains additional resources and reference material that you may find useful.

Integrating art history, technology and studio art production

Self-portrait lesson
Step 1
You need to find a self-portrait painting of a famous artist.
You will be working with this portrait for a while so find one that is interesting to you. Select a portrait that you want to know more about.
You may select one of the portraits below or you may click on one of the links below to search for one yourself. As soon as you have made your selection, download the picture to your camera roll and write down the name of the artist who created it, the title of the painting and the year it was made. 

Some famous self portraits for you to consider:

Next, upload the painting to your personal Drop box folder. If you have not yet created a personal Drop box folder on your iPad please follow the directions below:

 Look at the paintings that other students at your table have selected and, as a group, discuss the questions below on the next page.

What do you think a self-portrait can show? (- What the artist looks like ? - How they feel? - What type of artwork they produce?)
What does the portrait reveal about the time in which the artist lived?
Some people think that the self-portrait is the most interesting kind of portrait. Why do you think this is the case and, do you disagree or agree? 

As you consider each work, think of these questions:
What is it made of? 
How old is the work?

How long do you think it took the artist to make?

What scale is it?
How much of the artist can we see?
What (if anything) is in the work in addition to the portrait?
Have any particular props or symbols been used in order to assist the viewer to understand the work? 
What type of clothing is he or she wearing?
How is the figure lit?

What type of colors has the artist used?
Is the artist posing in any particular way?
Is he or she trying to tell us anything through the pose or gesture?

Do you think that an artist would make more than one self-portrait?

Do you think that the self-portrait is like an advertisement for the type of work that an artist can make?

The questions for discussion above are from a lesson on self-portraits by the National Portrait Gallery in London. To see the complete lesson click here.

Once you have finished selecting and saving the portrait, click on the link below to visit Biography.com. Type the artist’s name into the search and find out everything you can about them. If you cannot find any information about them on Biography.com, go to Google and type in the artists name and the word ‘biography’. Make sure you are spelling the name correctly.
Find out the following information and write it on a piece of lined paper:
Artist’s full name
Year of birth
Year of death
Was the artist associated with any famous artistic movement, artistic style or group? What was the name of their style or group?
What is the mood of the painting (Happy, sad, lonely, angry etc)?  Did the artist use brush strokes, color or facial expression to help convey that mood?
What was going on in the artist’s life that might have influenced the look of the painting?
Name one other interesting fact about this artist’s life
Name one aspect of this artist’s work that you would like to emulate in your own artwork.

Part 2: ChatterPix, bringing the painting to life
You need to prepare a short, 30-second, speech about this painting Using the facts that you have written on your notebook paper. Practice presenting your speech to the other students at your table, remembering to speak clearly.

Once you are ready, upload the portrait into the ChatterPix app and follow the directions. After drawing the mouth, record your speech. Play it back for yourself to make certain that it sounds clear. Save your project to the camera roll and then upload it into your personal Drop Box folder.

Part 3: Reflection
As a class, we will watch each other’s Chatter Pix presentations on the big screen in the classroom so that we can learn about each other’s chosen artist.
Here are the Chatter Pix movies that some of my fifth grade students produced:

Part 4: Choice project, #Selfie
Putting it all together

Now it is your turn to create your own self-portraits. 
The first self-portrait will be drawn with pencil on paper and then shaded. I will then photograph your picture on my phone, using the app Turboscan, and put it into your personal Dropbox folder for you. You will then use your drawing to create a digital self-portrait on an iPad, using the apps PS Touch and Sketchbook Pro.
It is up to you to decide whether you are going to include just your head, neck and shoulders or include your entire body. It is up to you to decide if you want your self-portrait to be sitting or standing still or in an action pose. 
When drawing on paper, you may use the camera on the iPad to take a picture of yourself to use as reference or you may use the camera of the iPad as a mirror. 

You may use any of the reference worksheets on drawing faces and people to help you. If you are not familiar with the proportions of the human face or how to shade a face please review these previous art lessons:





Student Art Gallery


  1. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us.

  2. I read your blog frequently and I just thought I’d say keep up the amazing work! outdoor portraits

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