(Mike asked me off list about a lesson he was planning).
Mike - maybe have them do some portrait drawings from observation first -
to learn how to draw the facial features and proportions of the face.
Just one class period of some studies may be enough. I have shared some
good Web resources for this.
The Photoshop Portrait (high contrast filter) is an idea that has been done
by many Middle School art teachers. One 9th grade teacher actually has the
kids paint right on top of the Photoshop printed image - no drawing - just
matching the values. You need to decide what your most important skill is
that you are working towards. Many others simply use the printed photograph
as a pattern and trace onto the painting board. Do try the grid approach as
that also brings in a math skill and vocabulary. If I were you. I would make
the lesson more about emotions and feelings. Talk about those - and how
colors bring about certain emotions....Then have the photographs taken
showing those emotions. I really like how Bunki brought the hand into her
student work too. Hands are so expressive. How can the hands help to show
the emotions your kids are expressing?
Seventh grade can do it....Have them all TRY it....but find ways for them to
"cheat" if they just can not see it the way you want them to.
What is the big deal anyways? If they can not see the way you want them to
- enlarge their photograph on the photo copier to 11 x 17
(or printer if you have large format printer)...and let
them trace over the lines of the shapes and value divisions. MANY art
teachers do it this way. They just may get a lower grade on the drawing
using a grid objective. Let them move on then to the next objective of value
study. Then let them use the traced one for their painting. Not all seventh
graders are going to get the grid. Some eighth graders don't get it.
It isn't worth laboring over it. Either let them draw it the way they see
it -- or allow them to use the enlarged digital image (for a more realistic
When I did my Heroes portraits - not one student complained when I let the
gal who couldn't "get it" use an enlarged photo. I knew she was not at all
happy with her own drawing and would not want to paint it. She was thrilled
with my solution. It was still her drawing and not mine.