When examining Chuck’s work a few general things seem consistent:
- Grids need to be a bit tight (more squares)
- Cool colors are used in the backgrounds
- Warm colors are used in the face
- Neutral colors for hair and clothing
We worked with 18 x 24 in. canvas board and a photo, slid into a plastic sleeve, that had a 10 x 14 square grid on it. After doing a little math, we found that the grid on the canvas should measure about 4.5 cm for each square or a tad smaller. Those who could, measured with rulers. Those who struggled (504/IEP) were given a strip of thick paper that wide to trace and create their larger grid.
Transferring the image was straight forward except we focused on contours of the hair, face, and clothing. We ignored small details like fly-away hairs, and we did not draw facial features like the eyes, nose, and mouth because they would need to be redrawn later anyway.
We painted the canvas this way:
Background – Alternating Cool Colors
Flesh – Alternating Warm Colors
Hair – Alternating Neutral Colors
Clothing – Neutral Colors or Student Choice
I really kept at them to USE the vocabulary we had been learning so it would become second nature. With this project, these words now have meaning as they had to apply what once may have just been a concept.
Some students chose to “play” with patterns in the background. I saw dollar signs in one, African Kente patterns in another. This was another option that added a layer of personal connection to the work and was praised.
Click on images below to see them more large.
When this first pass was done, I asked students to squint at their work, to note squares that might be too dark or too light. Then we modulated that value by adding a lighter or darker value to fix the issue. A third pass was often necessary to “tune” the value correctly based on the gridded photograph. I even had to add highlight in the facial hair so it would stand out against the background. I initially wanted to have a hidden eye in the background but felt it was a bit distracting so I removed it from my final version.
Here are some done by my students.
The ideas of value are tough to explain, identify, quantify, and execute. Some students struggled to work within the constraints of a grid and others flourished. Everyone had to “step up their game,” improved their understanding of these color theory concepts, and gain an appreciation of the artwork of Chuck Close and the masters that preceded him.