Class 5's Powerful Portraits

Equipped with stand-up mirrors, sharp pencils, large sheets of paper and their imaginations, the Class 5 students delved into a most familiar subject: themselves. A thoughtful assignment in Marianne Brand’s art class called for the girls to create self-portraits that reflected not only physical attributes but also their distinct personalities and feelings.

Eager to begin the project, the students, in paint-flecked smocks over their uniforms, wasted little time gathering their supplies and settling in at the worktables in Studio 6B. It was clear that this group relished the opportunity to express themselves artistically in a relaxed and collegial environment.

To draw a human face realistically, the eyes, nose and mouth need to be correctly shaped and proportioned. With Ms. Brand’s guidance, the students began by sketching basic shapes – such as ovals, circles and swirls – to get the feel of the pencil moving in their hands. Over and over again, they practiced these shapes until they felt confident enough to move on to the next stage of the project.

Next, using rulers, the students helped one another measure the distance from the tops of their heads to their chins, from cheek to cheek, and the spaces between their features. Ms. Brand reminded them that a person’s eyes are directly in the middle of her head, so finding the right spot was a straightforward enough task. After their calculations were complete, the students took turns drawing “mini-portraits” of their classmates’ faces, trying their best to capture each one’s essence in the span of an impossibly short minute. Much laughter ensued during this fun, and valuable, exercise.

Finally, it was time to begin their self-portraits. Gazing into the mirrors, they carefully copied their reflections. First, they outlined a large oval in the center of the paper, which would become the head. A curved neck, shoulders and torso followed. With this basic silhouette in place, the girls proceeded to fill in their unique attributes – eyes and eyebrows, nose and mouth, hair in a range of styles from bangs to braids to long and loose. Details like freckles, eyeglasses, jewelry and facial expressions further enhanced their creations.

For the final step, Ms. Brand asked her students to think about a message that was important to them and that, by extension, encapsulated Chapin’s theme this year, “Our Future, Our Voices.” After drawing shirts on their images, the girls wrote their chosen messages in the center. The T-shirt declarations were as varied as each student and included: “Not all who wander are lost,” “You can be whoever you want to be,” “Live Love Laugh,” “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Dream Big.”

The students were thrilled with the final results. Echoing sentiments shared by her classmates, one declared: “I feel proud of my portrait. We worked very hard on them and they all look like real people!” Ms. Brand was so pleased with the exquisite self-portraits that she decided to display them on a wall by Studio 6B and on the hallway outside the Gordon Room for members of Chapin’s community and visitors to admire.

The young artists were delighted to pose for photographs alongside their colorfully framed creations. With bright faces full of promise and uplifting messages, these works of art stand out as powerful testaments to each student’s strength of character and her vibrant personality.

Browse photos of the portraits below: