What you’ll need
• two to three 45-minute periods
• student access to internet
• class set of Handout: Behind the Face
• pencils and paper
• celebrity portraits, posters, art books with portraits
• large format poster paper, one for each student
• magazines for cutting
• markers
• poster paints (tempera)
• collage materials (textured fabrics, papers, yarn, etc.)
• pencil crayons
• adhesive
• scissors

Before you start

Collect various ‘celebrity portraits’ from magazines.
Have books and/or posters on-hand with images of more traditional portraits.
Print a class-set of  Handout:  Behind the Face

What to do
Allow your students to explore Four Kings and One Queen.  Have them consider the following questions:
• What audience were these portraits made for?
• Why do you think they were made?
• What was the artist trying to say about these men?
• Why do you think the animals in the portraits look so odd?

Draw attention to the fact that these portraits are large and full length.

Distribute other portrait images to the class (or ask your class to consider large images together). What similarities do your students see between the high-gloss ‘celebrity’ portraits and the Four Kings? Between other portraits and those of the Kings? Encourage dialogue in terms of media, composition, use, symbols, and clothing.

Ask the students to think about when they’ve had their school photo taken. Is this a portrait? How about a snapshot taken by a friend or family member? Note the differences on the board using a Venn diagram. Did the photographer or artist know them? Are the portraits ‘personal’? What is the purpose of a portrait such as a school photo versus a snapshot?

Organize students into pairs. As a warm-up exercise, ask students to draw each other (pencil and paper is fine). Don’t give them too much direction or time (10 minutes is adequate). When they are done, have the students put their drawings into the centre of a circle. Discuss (not critique) as a class.

• What are some of the differences they see?
• Did some students make full-length portraits? Head and shoulders?
• What ‘clues’ (if any) did the students include about their partner?
• Are most portraits realistic?
• Which portraits are the most similar? The most different?

Still working in pairs, have the students interview each other using Handout: Behind the Face.

When students are done, distribute large pieces of kraft paper, or other inexpensive large-format paper. Have plenty of supplies on hand (see ‘what you’ll need’). Have students draw an outline of their partner. The artist gets to make all decisions about the pose and the visuals used.

Once the students have an outline, get them to fill in the outline with materials that will help a viewer understand who this person is, not just what they look like. Ideas for these images and representations should flow from the completed Handout:  Behind the Face. Make sure to stress that the students don’t need to use all the information on the sheet, just as much as they feel is necessary. Students can suggest additional materials they might need based on the Behind the Face information (for example, perhaps the sitter likes chocolate – the artist could bring in candy bar wrappers).

Take it further
You may want to extend this activity.

• If you and your students have access to cameras, have them take photos of each other. How does a change in medium change the portrait?
• Have students make self-portraits. How is this different from making a portrait of someone else?
• Have students create a different kind of portrait: write a poem about themselves, or record a voice-only message about who they are.
• Students can select one item from home to express who they are. Set up a display in the classroom and have students make museum-style labels for their objects.

Portrait Gallery of Canada

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