Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2nd Grade Oil Pastel Portraits of "Me + My Hero"

2nd Graders have been working on a drawing unit based on the Blueprint Standards for Visual Arts (the NYC art standards). The benchmark for 2nd grade states that students should be able to "create a drawing that demonstrates experimentation with various drawing tools such as oil pastels, pencils, colored pencils and crayons and also demonstrates use of varied lines and colors to convey expression". The suggested theme is "a family portrait with attention to physical features".
I started the unit by doing an oil pastel exploration with students, as I always feel an exploration with materials is necessary for students at the beginning of any unit. I could teach them techniques as they created a final drawing (and I do to some extent), but I feel the learning they gain from just exploring the materials is much richer, as well as more beneficial. I want students to focus on the process, not the end product, and I feel that doing an exploration also helps with that.

The exploration I did with students began with a class discussion in which they learned how oil pastels can be manipulated in a variety of ways (smudging, layering, mixing, scratching, etc.). Students were then given a square piece of white paper that they folded twice, so that the paper  was left with four squares. Inside each square, students explored the techniques they learned about in the class discussion.

Jean, 2-216
Eny, 2-225
Emily, 2-216
After this, students looked at the work of Frida Kahlo and discussed the portraits she created; students learned that a portrait is a work of art that depicts a person, usually the head, neck, and shoulders with a focus on the facial expression of the person. . We learned that Frida often created portraits of loved ones, as well as people that were her heroes (like her doctor).
"Self-Portrait with the Portrait of Doctor Farill, Frida Kahlo, from the website

We then made a list of who our heroes were and students filled out a worksheet to describe/sketch their hero.

Jason, 2-216, He chose me as his hero :)

Once students had decided on their hero, they started working on their portraits of themselves with their hero. Students began in oil pastel, lightly drawing in their own portrait from observation using a mirror. We talked about how we might arrange the space inside the page so that we could fit in our hero as well. We also talked about how our hero might be taller than us, so we might need to draw our own heads further down on the page so the hero could take up more of the page and appear bigger. Students began by creating the shape of their portrait, then blended oil pastels to create their skin tones. After this, they created basic facial features in oil pastel. Once their own portraits were mostly complete, they added their hero's portrait by using a picture of their hero as reference (either a photo or a printed picture they each brought in as homework). Once both portraits were complete, students thought about where they might go with their hero and created a background that conveyed this. Finally, students used ebony pencil and sgraffito (with scratch sticks) to add details (like texture in hair, eye lashes, lines in lips, etc.).

Work in progress:
Annaya, 2-225

Yujia, 2-225

Yahay, 2-225

Steve, 2-216

Jason, 2-216, "My hero is Ms. Westerberg because she teaches me art in class"
Finished Artwork:
Dylan, 2-216, "My hero is David Wright from the Mets because he always hits home runs"

Raul, 2-216, "My hero is my Sister because she almost did a split in the blizzard"

Rosalia, 2-216, "My hero is my mother because she always helps me with my homework"

Stacey, 2-216, "My hero is my mom because I love her and if somebody robs me she will get them"

Yannae, 2-216
"My Hero is a Doctor", Nathaly, 2-225

"My Hero is a Doctor", Yujia, 2-225

"My Hero is a Firefighter", Francisco, 2-225

"My Hero is a Firefighter", Kimberly, 2-225

"My Hero is my Brother", Helen, 2-225

"My Hero is my Dad", Angel, 2-225

"My Hero is my Dad", Nayeli, 2-225

"My Hero is my Mom", Annaya, 2-225

"My Hero is my Mom", Luis, 2-225

"My Hero is my Mom", Sabrina, 2-225

"My Hero is my Mom", Yahya, 2-225

"My Hero is my Sister", Yamilet, 2-225


  1. I'm stealing this... this week as a matter a fact.

  2. Great!! Share pics when you're done! And feel free to send any feedback about how you improved/changed anything :)