Historical Self-Portraits

From Sue Siemonsma, art teacher

From the time we are quite small until our teens, all children are innately driven to create art. It doesn’t matter the medium: crayon, marker, lipstick. We begin with “scribbles” for the pure joy of making marks. As we grow and mature, so does our art-making. Our culture and experiences begin to appear in the marks we make. The circles have a name. The sun smiles at the viewer from its designated corner.

For this reason, students at Orange City Christian School draw a self portrait each year they are an art student. Years ago, teachers were asked to create a portfolio that would become a record of the work that students do throughout their years at OCCS. When students are 8th grade graduates, they can remember the stories they wrote and see the progress made. I decided the best record an art teacher could provide for the portfolio would be a student’s record of his or her drawing development.
Artists often make self-portraits. A 13 year old boy named Albrecht Durer in the 15th century may have been the first to use a mirror to draw himself. It is fitting for the 8th grade students to spend time learning God’s general proportions in his design for the human face. It is the goal for this final self-portrait at OCCS to be the best, most realistic of each that has preceded it.
Each school year begins with a self-portrait drawing. When they are completed, they mysteriously disappear from the students’ view. Until... the last day of 8th grade art. I will share with students that they are about to see a record of their drawing development. The scribbling stage will not be represented, but they will see a self-portrait from the symbolic stage--a circle face and sausage shaped arms and legs. Self-portraits from the realistic stage show the desire to draw themselves as God created them. Lastly, the stage of artistic decision is shown in their own 8th grade self-portrait showing their best effort to use general proportions. It is quite an exciting time.
The unveiling of the drawing portfolios are only a few months away. There is much work to do until that day. I look forward to sharing the drawings that have taken the first eight weeks of school to collect. Most of all, I look forward to the response of the students when they see the seemingly long lost drawings. Laughs, giggles and comments are sure to fill the air. Priceless.


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