5th Grade Family Portraits on Artsonia

I love this project. I love seeing how the kids choose to portray their families. From mothers with arms around their children, to the sayings on the T-shirts, the braces on the smiling teeth of older siblings, and the variety of pets included, these family portraits make me smile!

Allison S and family
Allison S and family

We started by looking at family portraits from the 1700’s.

(Here is my source:http://b-womeninamericanhistory18.blogspot.com/2013/06/paintings-of-18th-century-american.html . The Worcester Art Museum has some great examples, too)

1763-65 Henry Benbridge (American colonial era artist, 1743-1812)_  Gordon Family (Including his stepfather & mother Mary Clark Benbridge Gordon)
1763-65 Henry Benbridge (American colonial era artist, 1743-1812). Gordon Family (Including his stepfather & mother Mary Clark Benbridge Gordon)

We looked the few famous painters from the time, but also learned about the limner painters that went from town to town offering to paint signs and family portraits. This was a  great compare and contrast opportunity looking at clothing and props and considering the symbolism the artifacts represent.

1771-73 Charles Willson Peale (American colonial era artist, 1741-1827). The Peale Family.
1771-73 Charles Willson Peale (American colonial era artist, 1741-1827). The Peale Family.

We had excellent discussions about how we define “family” as these paintings contain multiple generations and combinations of adults. Very few of these early paintings portray families comprised of the stereotypical father, mother, a boy, and a girl. And then the students made thumbnail sketches in their sketchbooks to plan how to sketch their families.

1776-john-singleton-copley-american-born-artist-1738-1815

1776-john-singleton-copley-american-born-artist-1738-1815

Working on 11 x 17 watercolor paper, students made the final drawing of their families. We discussed grouping them with overlap and foreground, middleground (Space), as well as positioning the figures on the page at different levels to help create the illusion of depth (We are magicians!). We also considered friezes, because this was not the desired effect (Composition). Drawing large people on the 11 x 17 page was a challenge for many students whose comfort zone is in small, careful drawings.

Rebekah P and family
Rebekah P and family

Once solid drawings were made, students colored them in with watercolor pencil. Our watercolor pencils do not come in a peach color, so students learned how to create Caucasian skin tones with yellow, orange, pink, and a little blue. Yes, blue.

Andrew M and family
Andrew M and family

After coloring, students blended the pencil with a brush dipped in water.

Joshua M and family
Joshua M and family

Once dry, they went over their pencils lines with black watercolor pencils, and carefully added water with the tippy tip of the brush.

Max O and family
Max O and family

This project took some careful focus and time, but the pay-off is the fabulous art! These portraits have been posted to our Artsonia gallery at: http://www.artsonia.com/teachers/members/exhibits/detail.asp?id=592086

Andrew M and family
Andrew M and family

Artsonia is having a sale through December 15th, with 20% of all purchases going to our art room… 🙂

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