We’ve all had moments where we look in the mirror for a little too long and start to overanalyze our faces, but that’s nothing compared to the 4-5 weeks the Fall 2019 Drawing I class recently spent drawing self-portraits.
Drawing teacher Ms. Schick described the project as “a way to get [students] introduced to drawing and build self-confidence in drawing skills.”
Using only pictures of themselves, sheets of paper, erasers, and upgraded cousins of No. 2 pencils, eight students created the near-mirror images of themselves that are currently hanging in the Community Center across from the stairs down to the chapel and the dining hall.
I sat down with junior Chloe Beaver and Ms. Schick to learn about what goes into a personal project with such a public display.
Last year, Chloe rearranged her schedule to make room for more art classes starting with Foundations of Art and Painting I. She’s taking Drawing this year on a teacher recommendation. “Ms. Story said I should take drawing if I wanted to improve my painting,” Chloe said. “They cover a lot of the same concepts.”
Ms. Schick’s instructions for the graphite portrait project were fairly simple: Draw yourself. She gave students assignments alongside the portrait to help them further develop skills from Foundations, particularly with an increase in materials. “Students in the Drawing I class have 12 pencils to work with, double the number used in Foundations,” Ms. Schick explained. Chloe and her classmates also practiced shading and working with proportions over the course of the project.
While the primary goal of a drawing project is, of course, to learn about drawing, the act of creating a self-portrait can teach artists about themselves. Chloe became harsher on herself about her appearance. Over the course of the project, she had to learn to accept herself at face value. Literally. “You’ll see the picture, and you’ll see an imperfection you want to change,” she said. “You could change it with the pencil, but you want to be authentic.”
Chloe’s portrait is authentic, and despite any perceived imperfections she still admires many aspects of her hard work. As a self-proclaimed “brow person,” Chloe is pleased that her portrait’s eyebrows turned out how she wanted. “I liked just in general drawing my specific features, and I got to incorporate my Hebrew necklace,” she said. Her necklace says ????? (Bracha), the Hebrew word for blessing.
Ms. Schick is proud of her students’ work, saying that their takeaways from the project were what she’d hoped they’d be. “This is a really amazing group of drawing students,” she said. “[Their portraits] are very expressive and capture the likeness of the artist. Ms. Story said this is the best project to come out of class since she’s been here.”
The perspective and angle from which you look at a person or a portrait affects how you see it, too. Ms. Schick took the students’ reference pictures while they were sitting down. Chloe drew her portrait while the paper was laying flat on a table. When she saw it on display, however, it didn’t look quite the same. “When I was drawing it looked like me, but then when I put it up against the wall, a lot of things looked different,” Chloe said.
As we were standing in front of her portrait, I asked Chloe where I should stand to see the portrait as intended. She recommended viewers step to the left and bend down a little to look up at it.
Ultimately, the project allowed Chloe to see herself as others do. “People say what you see in the mirror isn’t what other people see,” she explained. “I learned a new perspective of myself.”