Sunday, March 27, 2011

a lesson in realistic abstract portraiture for a blind student

Written Lesson Plan by Donna Grimm
Title: A Lesson in Realistic/Abstract Portraiture For A Blind Student
Topic: realistic vs. abstract concepts, texture
Goals & Objectives:
  • Students will develop and enhance their knowledge and understanding of the differences and similarities between abstract and realistic portraiture in art.
  • Students will be able to glue objects to a surface, draw/paint with art materials and answer questions to the satisfaction of the instructor.
Strand I: Product/Performance for Subject Matter: Fine Art
A.3. Communicate ideas about subject matter and themes in artworks created for various purposes
Grade 5 - Portrait: Create a portrait from observation, Still Life: Create a still life from observation that shows the illusion of form, Landscape: Create an original outdoor scene to show the illusion of space
Strand II: Elements and Principles – Texture
D. 1. Select and use elements of art for their effect in communicating ideas through artwork.
Grade 5 - Identify and use implied or simulated textures
Show-Me Standards: FA1
National Standards for K-12: 1d.
Grade: 5th and 8th
Population: The following lesson was created for one teacher to teach one blind student or perhaps two or three.
Length of Class Period: one hour
Frequency of Class Period: not applicable
Time Needed: one hour
Facility & Equipment Requirements:
  • A room that is accessible to the blind
  •  table with two chairs
Resources Needed:
  • Tactile Aid “double mask” photographed below
  • One plain, unaltered human mask form
  • Several masks that are heavily textured
Materials Per Student: A separate diagram and material list for the construction of the tactile aid for the classroom discussion is attached. This tactile aid must be constructed by the teacher prior to the lesson for the purpose of the tactile discussion. I’ve listed below the supplies needed for the art project only.
  •  large, heavy weight, identical sheets of paper are required. Each of these sheets must have an embossed eye located in the same position prior to the lesson plan. If the teacher is unfamiliar with the embossing processes he or she may cut a eye shaped hole out of each sheet of paper with either a mat knife or a pair of scissors. The eye shape is a point of reference for the blind student to work from.
  • water based paints
  • drawing tools: crayons, pencils, pastels
  • white all purpose glue (non-toxic)
  • Objects to glue to the paper for texture such as: feathers, friendly foam, sand paper, yarn etc…
  1. portrait - A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.
  2. profile - an outline of something (especially a human face as seen from one side)
  3. frontal view - a head-on view of the sitter, when the sitter directly faces the viewer
  4. side view - a view from the side of something
  5. representational portrait - representational is another word for realistic when someone is discussing art (used especially of art) depicting objects, figures,or scenes as seen; "representational art"; "representational images"
  6. abstract portrait - In the case of a portrait, a person's face is represented by strategically simplifying all types of information associated with their appearance.
  7. patron - The person who pays for an artist to have either his likeness recorded or someone else's.
undecorated mask
Motivation- Looking and Talking Activity: A Tactile Discussion:  The following activity is the discussion part of my adapted lesson for teaching the differences between abstract and realistic portraiture in art to a blind student in grade six. Teachers should remember that many times blind students do not have experiences in discovering how artist’s conceptually portray their own ideas through a media. Limited exploration of this kind may make this art lesson too advanced for a blind student given his own personal history. I have attempted to break down the information in small steps. This is also why I have not stated for the lesson what I expect from the student to learn upon the completion of the project. I suggest any teacher following this outline to repeat it several times on different days before testing your student on the information. It is the responsibility of the instructor to examine individual cases in order to estimate the level of difficulty attributed to an art curriculum for his or her blind student. I will introduce other elements of abstract design in portraiture later. Exaggerated features may be introduced as the student progresses but I have left it out of the following lesson plan. It is important not to introduce too much information all at once to a student with limited experiences. Please make sure your blind student understands the following concepts first before introducing a second lesson on exaggeration in portraiture. After this activity/discussion I will then provide an art project for a blind student to work on.
Some unrealistic masks
 that can be shared after the
 tactile discussion
      All blind art students must be given time to explore objects with their senses before any other information is to be shared. Give your student time to familiarize his hands with any objects he will be working with so that he is prepared to talk about them. Hand to your blind student an undecorated mask along with several decorated ones. Ask him to try these on. Give your student plenty of time to feel these and then take them off. Ask him following questions:
  1. Do you know what a mask is? (Any answer from the child. Teacher talks about the sample masks the student is feeling)
  2. When do people where masks? (Any answer will due. Teacher describes plays or Halloween celebrations)
  3. Have you ever had to where a mask? (Any answer)
  4. Which one of these masks do you think best represents how a person looks in real life? (It’s important that the student identifies the blank undecorated mask.)

(This double mask tactile aid was especially developed by Mrs. Grimm. It is backed with a sheet of heavy cardboard. There are holes filled with different textured items like cotton balls, rice and paper. There are applied items to the surface of the masks like paper molded clay and yarn.)

      After he answers the fist questions to his own satisfaction and answers the last question accurately, then place in front of him the two sample masks that have been created for his exploration in this lesson plan. Give him plenty of time to enjoy exploring the surprises. Let your student touch the set of masks for the duration of this discussion. Now ask the following questions of him as he explores the set of masks:
  • ·      What characteristics do these masks share in common with your own face?
  • ·      Show me the hole located in an eye socket, if you have found one yet.
      To compare the differences between a representational portraits and abstract portraits, you will need to talk about the attributes that are similar and the attributes that are distinctly different between two concepts. It is important to first teach a blind child about concepts as objects through a series of tactile exercises before attempting to teach art concepts. In this way, the instructor is helping her student to create concrete visual information in the student’s memory before introducing how these objects are treated in art philosophy or how objects are created in an abstract portrait. Ask your student the following questions:
  1. What characteristic do each of these masks share that is similar? (They are both smooth in places and represent a human face.)
  2. Are the holes located in places that you think they should be? (Only one hole is in a eye socket, they other holes are found in unpredictable places.)
  3. Can you describe the textures you feel inside of the masks? (bumpy, paper like, soft)
  4. How many textures are inside of the masks combined? (There are three because one hole is empty.)
  5. Can you talk about the textures you feel outside on top of the masks? How are these different?
      Now explain to the pupil what is painted or sculpted in a representational artwork is what appears or feels predictable to his own face. If you observe a realistic or representational artwork you are experiencing an object that is about a person. This painting or sculpture has a very high number of characteristics representative of that particular person. The following questions should be asked to help reinforce realistic expectations the blind person can make about his own face and an accurate portrayal of it in art works.
  1. How many openings do you have on your head? (7)
  2. How many literal openings are on the masks? (5)
  3. How are these masks realistic? (These have features that are true to life, a nose each, both have two eyes, a mouth each.)
  4. If I were to paint or sculpt your portrait realistically, what would I include in the picture? (The child should describe her own face.)
  5. Are all the textures inside of the masks what you would find on your head? If so, explain how these are similar to you. If not explain how these textures a dissimilar to you. (The student may say that the cotton is soft like his own hair or that the rice is bumpy like his own skin. He may recognize the textures as cotton, rice, and newspaper and say that none of these are found on his head. Either answer is correct.)
      Explain to your student the following concept. In abstract portraits, the facial features are created to feel or look like simple textures, lines, or just a few colors that describe a person. There is less information and the information has been made simple. Reinforce this explanation by asking him the following questions:
  1. What are the unrealistic attributes of the two masks?
  2. How do the masks represent people in a strange way?
  3. How do the masks represent people in a predictable way?
      Summarize this part of the lesson by telling your student the following information. A portrait is like a mask because it has to do with the manipulation of how we see people. Even when an actor wears a mask that is of another person, the mask is still identified with a human. Sometimes people wear animal masks to change their identity. Do animals wear masks? Not really. So a mask is always about transforming or duplicating the identity of a person, isn't it? Portraits are just like masks in this way. Except that portraiture is created to identify a person more often than to confuse or mislead others about the identity of someone. Portraits can be realistic or abstract. If a portrait is realistic that means that it is a reasonable likeness to the person the artist is painting or sculpting. If the portrait is abstract this could mean two things. It could mean that it is a depiction of a few simplified features of a person or it could also mean that it is a strange manipulation of a person’s original features.
Step-by-Step Studio Activity Specifics: This project is adapted for the vision impaired. Teachers should have the supplies on hand in advance in a regular art classroom. Be cautious about sharp tools or any object that the student(s) may cut himself with while working. If you can eliminate these objects all together from his reach do so. However, I do encourage blind students to learn to use scissors. By the time the student is in sixth grade he or she should be trust worthy with a pair of scissors. Just be careful to observe blind students during the lesson so that accidents don’t happen! I’ve included samples of the following project for the teacher to view. The child may also be given the same prior to beginning his own creations. It is helpful for blind students to “see” the work of their fellow peers with their hands before trying the art process themselves. This is a process that teachers take for granted in students that have vision. Do not neglect the same benefit to those children who must feel that sample works of others before proceeding to make something of their own. Always produce a sturdy sample version of each art lesson for a blind student to feel, just as you would produce a sample for sighted children to view.
      Place one sheet of paper in front of the blind student and let him feel it and reference the embossed eye. Tell the student that the eye is a person’s left eye in a portrait. “Now, you are going to draw a realistic portrait of a person. What that means is that you should try to draw a portrait that has all of the same features found on your own face. This picture should have the same number of features found on a typical human face. When you are creating your realistic portrait, try to put the features in the correct positions on the face. The following is a list of the elements/features your student should have in his “realistic portrait”
  • He is working inside of realistic boundaries. This means that the eyes are somewhat level to with each other. The lips are placed below the nose. The nose is between the eyes and so on.
  • Check to make sure that textures are placed realistically. Hair and beards are placed appropriately.
  • Make sure the student gives his portrait the same number of features that are on his own face: two eyes, two ears, one nose, two lips, one chin, hair, two eyebrows etc…
      After this drawing is completed, place the second piece of paper in front of the student and a variety of media to create with. Explain, “Now you are going to create an abstract portrait using any kind of texture that you would like. You may also include facial features in any position that you like.” Below is a list of elements/features that your student should create in his abstract portrait.
  • All types of textures in any place he wishes to include them
  • Any colors he includes are fine
  • Strange placement of features should also be encouraged
Health & Safety Concerns: All health and safety concerns are taken into concideration when the teacher is working with an individual who suffers from blindness. The teacher must be held responsible for correct use of materials and the safety factors surrounding heavy or sharp instruments.
Cleanup Time & Strategy: If the blind student is familiar with the bins inside of an art room where the instructor may organize the storage of different materials and if these bins are safely situated then and only then may a blind student help clean up his own work area.
A Formal Assessment: In the grading of a blind student’s work I have chosen to place heavier emphasis on the comprehension aspect of this lesson plan than that required of a sighted student. Teachers take note that the grading rubric for a blind student reverses the percentage of expectations from the project to the discussion. Blind students may earn up to seventy points for correct answers in a oral exam. They may earn up to thirty points for their art project. I have included a sample exam for the instructor. I will also include the vocabulary from the original lesson plan on the formal oral exam for my blind student. I will review these orally with my student prior to the discussion above or after the discussion depending upon the amount of time I have with them in the classroom. The student will need to be holding the same double mask sample that they were given during the tactile discussion.
Short Quiz for Abstract/Realistic Portrait for the Blind Student (worth 70 pts.)
True or False.
  1. In a profile portrait, the artist includes a nose, a mouth, and two eyes. (2pt.) (false)
  2. Abstract portraits always depict the subject from a frontal view. (2pt.) (false)
  3. Another word for realistic in artistic circles is representational? (2pt.) (true)
  4. A realistic portrait represents a person as he appears in real life. (2pt.) (true)
  5. Another word for a profile is a side view. (2pt.) (true)
  6. A sculpture of a person can be considered a portrait. (2pt.) (true)
  7. Shapes may be used to describe both an abstract portrait and a realistic portrait. (2pt.) (true)
  8. In order to paint an abstract portrait, an artist must strategically simplify the original information associated with the appearance of the person he is painting. (2pt.) (true)
  9. If you can see or touch all the features on a portrait that naturally appear on a real person's face this is called a frontal view. (2pt.) (true)
  10. A patron is the person who pays an artist to produce a portrait. (2pt.) (true)
Short Answer. The blind student must have in front of himself the Tactile Sample used in the discussion in order to answer some of the following questions.
  1. Name at least three realistic human features these two masks share in common. (3pts.) The student may list the noses, lips, shapes of the heads or the positioning of the features.
  2. Show me two peculiar features found on the right mask. (2pts) The student may point to the yarn texture, the holes the newsprint or rice in the holes.
  3. Name an event a person might where a mask to. (5pts) The student may describe and event like a parade, a ball, a masquerade party, Halloween trick-or-treating etc…
  4. Describe three different textures found inside the two masks. (5pts) rice, newsprint, and cotton, rough,soft,paper
  5. What is the difference between the textures located on top of the two masks? (5pts.) One texture is wavy and feels rough like yarn. The other texture is bumpy and raised off the surface higher.
  6. If I were to sculpt a realistic portrait of your face, name at least five things I might do it to convince other people that it is life like. (5pts.) You might give it realistic texture, hair, two eyes, two eye brows, a nose, a mouth, realistic looking clothing etc…
  7. If I were to sculpt a profile of your face, what would it look like? (5pts.) I could only touch the side of your face.
  8. You created for me two portraits. Which of the two did you prefer? Why? (5pts.) Any answer is appropriate.
  9. Name three reasons you might want to hire an artist to paint your portrait. (5pts.) Any five events such as: a Birthday party, a gift for someone else, to show someone what I look like, for fun etc…
  10. Why is a mask sometimes like a portrait? (5pts.) A mask might represent a particular person, it may have human features, it could depict human emotions etc…
  11. How is a mask different from a portrait? (5pts) A mask does not always represent an exact person and sometimes masks are ment to misrepresent a person. Some masks are of animals and not people. Masks are ment to be worn. Masks are used by actors in plays.