We have all had to research and write biographies on different people throughout our educational journeys. For this project, I wanted students to research and reflect on the person they know best—themselves—in a visual artistic manner. A visual autobiography to me is a representation of symbols and characteristics that one uses to describe oneself. The challenge is to choose icons that can accurately express something about yourself while using a minimum of words.
What Is a Visual Autobiography?
A visual autobiography to me is a representation of symbols and characteristics that one uses to describe oneself. The challenge is to choose icons that can accurately express something about yourself while using a minimum of words.
In creating their visual autobiographies, I asked students to use images or drawings for at least 80% of the artwork. I also asked them to incorporate the following components into their illustrations:
Full color or full value.
A self-portrait illustration.
Information about yourself as a student.
Information about yourself as an artist.
Accomplishments thus far.
Goals for the future.
Where you are from and where you currently live.
Background in art-making: When did you start creating art? Why?
Who or what is your inspiration as an artist?
Why a Visual Autobiography?
Observational drawing is the best way to discover and practice basic drawing techniques. Once acquired, this skill can be applied to any subject in art. Creating portraits helps students learn how to arrange a good composition and teaches them how to use proportion and form and how to build tone and color. Drawing portraits also helps students develop and strengthen their natural drawing abilities and improves their observational skills and the ability to render shape, tone, color, pattern, and texture in a variety of media.
Reflecting on themselves and their artistic journey is an important part of students’ own art-making journey. Having them share this process with others helps to create a sense of community in the art room and throughout the school.
Choosing and Combining Media
Media exploration can sometimes be challenging. What media works well with another media? How can multiple media be used properly? I challenged students to combine and experiment with different media and explore on their own. What better way to understand how to use new media than to try it out for themselves? Students made small thumbnail sketches using different kinds of media to see how they worked together. I believe this strengthened their understanding of media usage beyond what a lecture could have done.
This assignment encouraged students to dig deeper into themselves as visual art-makers and allowed them to be more reflective as artists. It also created a greater sense of community and empathy as students learned a little more about each other and discovered common characteristics.
Leigh Drake is the visual fine arts instructional specialist for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. Leigh.Drake@VBSchools.com
Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
Art teachers incorporate visual language, written language, spoken language, sign language, computer programming language, and more into their lessons. Students create the first letter of their first name using a cut-paper mosaic technique, combine typography with graphic design tools to create name designs, use a CAD program to turn character drawings into 3D-printed figures, design public word sculptures to inspire positive action, and more.