Renaissance Selfie

26 October, 2016. Twenty-two days? It’s been twenty-two days since even a single stroke of my pen or brush has kissed the page of my sketchbook. One of the great ironies about being an artist who teaches is that there are times when one spends far more teaching art than making art. This week, my drawing students are wrapping up a self-portraiture assignment I call the “Renaissance Selfie.” I ask students to imagine they’ve been transported via time machine to the time of the Renaissance.

By researching works of the Italian and Dutch Renaissance, my kids learn how some of our most famous artworks came about. They look closely at the hair, the garb, the treatment of light, the facial expressions. And they begin to figure out how to plan and craft a drawing. I take them through the process of combining their own features with those referenced in a master’s work. (I chose Rembrandt.) Although my demonstration drawing is the product of a single class period, at least I get the opportunity to draw!

The prompt for this assignment is a fun premise: to imagine you’ve been transported back in time to a specific age and location – to Rembrandt’s neighborhood, for example. EVERYONE wants to fit in, right? But those blue jeans and t-shirt you are wearing right now will make you stand out as…odd. “If you wanted to fit in, how would you have to change your appearance?” I ask them. So imagine how you would have to modify your appearance in order to fit into that time, place, and culture. This is a great way to bring up conversations about history, context, art techniques (like chiaroscuro and classical portraiture, for instance.)

School isn’t in session this Friday, so I’ve got a three-day weekend in which to make up for having abandoned my sketchbook these last few weeks. It’s about time. (6B graphite stick and pencil on Arches paper.)


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