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finger printed portraits


From: Marian Colman (Colmans1_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Tue Mar 12 2002 - 12:53:44 PST

I've had several inquiries about the finger printed portraits so I will
attempt to explain the process. This lesson was inspired by the work of
Chuck Close and his huge fingerprinted portraits of his family and friends.
We look at "Fannie" who I believe is actually his mother-in law. Because
Chuck had learning disabilities, it was much easier for him to transfer his
photos using a grid system. He said the whole was confusing, but to look at
a small part made evrything more manageable. I give them an opportunity to
bring in a photo of someone that means something to them or a photo of
themselves. If they don't bring something in, I have photos on hand that
they must choose from. This year the photos were of the faculty which made
things really fun. Last year I had photocopied magazine pictures of famous
people. It doesn't matter if the photos are color or b/w because you will
need to photocopy them anyway. Your ultimate goal is an 8 x 10 face that
fills the format and has strong value contrast. I blew up most of the
photos on copy paper and then trimmed them to 8 x 10. The students drew a
1" grid on the photocopy and then a 2" grid on a 16 x 20 piece of poster
board. We go through the process of enlarging through the grid and talk
about how much easier it is to work in a small area because you stop
identifying what it is you are drawing. You look only at the lines, shapes
and values.( very right brain oriented). This really makes it simple for
kids who feel they can't draw. After transferring the image with light
pencil lines, we use a combination of a black stamp pad for the lighter gray
values and black acrylic paint for the dark values.( the darkest dark from
the stamp pad is lighter than the dark acrylic). I show them how to gradate
the value smoothly from light to dark. They work square by square, slowly
building the image. I also allow them to use stencils in order to be able
to print around white areas. Some use the end of a paper clip to get really
small details. I allow them to use the edge of a 1" foam brush to do the
hair and the background. They do 80% of the image with their finger tips.
The rest can be done any way they want, but traditional paintbrushes are
forbidden! It took us about 3 weeks to do this. They are very time
consuming, but the results are worth all the effort. The students are very
proud that they have been able to capture a likeness. They are great to
display-- everyone stops to have a look! Thank you for your suggestions
about how to sell the work. Basically, the student will come up with a
price and the teacher will agree or not. If they strike a deal, the art
dept. gets a small commission to cover the costs of the materials and mat.
 just like a gallery commission as Harold pointed out.) The student keeps
the rest. Please email me with any other questions.