UC Artists Exhibit Patterns Portrait Project

Visual Arts Chair Rory Sloan’s Drawing and Painting III and Honors Drawing and Painting III classes recently shared an exhibition of a patterns portrait project on which they have been working. Below, Ms. Sloan shares how she has tailored this special project for her students and how it allows them to access their creative freedom through practicality.

The patterns portrait project invites students to deepen their observational skills. Albeit not originally my own, I have tweaked this curriculum over many years, distilling it to address a specific set of drawing skills through several steps and exercises. Students first define the basic elements of art via line, shape, and value and draw up to  20 – 25 different pattern squares. The patterns invariably explore a variety of values from light to dark.  Most students use photographs of themselves to inspire a portrait drawing.  The image is then divided by laying a grid atop it. The application of grid systems in visual arts to transfer and manage pictorial information has a long history. Artists use grids to scale drawings from small works to massive murals. Each student transferred an image in the photograph to another canvas, paper, or screen. Students studied their photographs to further mine for details of value from light to dark and reinterpreted that value scale by using patterns and line weight. The tighter the patterns, the darker the pattern appears, the more space in the pattern, the lighter it appears. The harder the pressure on the medium, the darker or lighter the value as well.

The community of portraits, as shared in the exhibition, offer our SC community an opportunity to peek through the open doorway of a visual arts classroom. In this case, to observe the focus of a project where students have an active, hands-on learning experience where technique and practice merge. 

A broad stroke of the project was also for me, professionally, to seek an opportunity to meet and get to know my new students without their masks. Through their photos and images, I could learn about their unique and distinct characteristics not only through their faces but through their interests and talents. 

Community is so very valued in the process of making art.  Art practice encourages creative pursuits towards mastery. This portrait project celebrates diversity in visual form and expression. 

Thank you to Ms. Sloan and her students for sharing this incredible project and exhibition with us. These portraits are currently on display at the Upper Campus in the Library Stairwell Gallery.
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Sierra Canyon School is a private, independent, non-sectarian, co-educational, college preparatory school for students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12 located in Chatsworth, California. The highly cosmopolitan campus community is reflective of the Greater Los Angeles area and the world at large. Students are empowered to realize their greatest creative, ethical, intellectual and physical promise through small class sizes, a diverse student-teacher culture and a family-like environment.