You will need:
A4 or A3 paper
Pencil (preferable B2 or B3)
Mirrors for each participant
Exploring the face: touching, looking, drawing
- Begin by closing your eyes and exploring your face through touch, noticing all the textures.
- Next, hold a mirror about an arm’s length from your face and look at your reflection. Notice different lines – outlines, hairlines and wrinkles.
- Look carefully at the particular shapes of your features, noticing, for example, that eyes and nostrils are not round. What shapes are your eyes, your nose, your nostrils? What line defines your particular chin?
- Think about the fact that nobody else in the whole world has a face that looks exactly the same as yours – not even twins. Each face is completely unique.
- Report back on any interesting discoveries you make. Having studied it so closely, do you see your face in a different way?
- Now the challenge is to translate these lines, shapes, forms and textures into marks, and transfer them to a flat surface using pencil.
Begin the drawing
- Feel the page with your hand first, to get a sense of the size of the space you will be working on. Try to use the entire format for your drawing.
- Look carefully at your own face in the mirror once again. Then begin drawing, starting with either your eyes or your nose. Remember to keep referring back to the mirror, and always try to draw what you see and not what you think you see. Spend more time looking into the mirror than at the page!
- Every detail and texture of the face can be expressed through different marks and lines. Experiment with marks that look like your own particular hair texture, for example, or your own lips.
- You should not keep using the eraser. Don’t worry about “mistakes”. These are part of the process. Some great discoveries come from mistakes – they can force us into creative solutions and new possibilities.
- After the drawing exercise, display all of the drawings on the wall.
Look at your drawings
There are many ways of capturing a sense of someone’s appearance or character, other than through an exact likeness or accurate representation.
Do any drawings show interesting or creative ways of interpreting texture – for example in clothing, hair, lips or eyes?
To the Teacher
If you do not have enough mirrors for all students, ask them in advance to bring a small mirror to class for this activity.
Not all drawings need to be “realistic” or “accurate”. Not all students can, or want, to draw in that way. Try to find features of interest, expression or unique interpretation of character in each drawing.
We are all different
You have noticed that every face is different, and that each of us sees ourselves differently from the way others see us.
This suggests our many differences to one another: not only in our physical appearance, but differences in character, language, outlook, interests, aptitudes and cultures.
To the Teacher
When putting pictures up on a wall, make sure each work is fully visible all the way round, and that each image is respected. Do not let them overlap.
These drawings could be used as a starting point to talk about difference and tolerance, and the need to respect difference between all people – among our peers and in broader society as well.
Interpreting texture with line and mark
Do the lines and textures seem to express, or reveal, any aspect of your character or personality?
Think of such characteristics you or your classmates might have: are any of them careful and precise people, for example, or noisy and gestural, or especially bold, or shy, or sensitive? How might some of their drawing styles reflect this?
To the Teacher
Adapting this lesson
There are numerous other ways of working with portraiture.
In the theme Getting Started, we explored paint and colour-mixing. You can
use the same techniques to paint a portrait – as in the examples alongside.
If you do not have mirrors, you could make portraits of each other in pairs.