Vincent paints himself

Do you know who this man is?

Wie weet wie deze wereldberoemde man is?
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Slide 1: Tekstslide
Art and designLower Secondary (Key Stage 3)Primary Education

In deze les zitten 14 slides, met tekstslides.

time-iconLesduur is: 90 min


Using Vincent van Gogh's self-portraits, the class will learn about the basic proportions of the face. Then they will paint their own self-portraits.


General learning objectives
The students will:
- learn more about Vincent van Gogh's self-portraits
- find out about the basic proportions of the face
- and paint their own self-portraits using a mirror.

Materials needed
- A print-out of the worksheet for each student
- Mirrors
- Art paper (A2)
- Old newspapers
- Pencils or charcoal sticks
- Brushes
- Paint
- Jars, cups or other containers for water
- Rags or towels for drying brushes while painting
- Ruler or straight-edge (optional)

1. Instead of painting self-portraits, the students can work in pairs, painting portraits of each other.
2. Instead of mirrors, the students can use copies of their school photos. Then they can draw the schematic lines for the portrait directly on the copies.

Background information
Dozens of self-portraits of Vincent van Gogh have been preserved – both paintings and drawings. He made most of them in Paris. At the time, he was experimenting with lighter colours and new painting techniques, different from the ones he had learned in the Netherlands.


Onderdelen in deze les

Do you know who this man is?

Wie weet wie deze wereldberoemde man is?

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

Story: There are almost no photos of this man, probably because he didn't like to have his picture taken. In this photo (from 1872), he is 19 years old. There are no known portrait photos of him when he was older. But even so, we have a fairly good idea of how he looked.
- How do you think we know?
- Who knows who this man is?
Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

Slide 2 - Tekstslide

Story: The man in the photo is Vincent van Gogh. But it was taken before he started painting. Of course, by the time he made this self-portrait he was a painter.
- What are the names of the painting materials you see here?
> An easel, a canvas, a palette with oil paint, cups for oil and turpentine, and brushes.
- What could Vincent be painting in this portrait? > His self-portrait!

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

Story: Vincent hoped to earn money by painting portraits. But first, he needed a lot of practice. It cost less to paint his own portrait than to hire a model. But of course, he needed a way to see his own image. Here you can see what he used, in a detail from his famous painting The Bedroom: a mirror.

Slide 4 - Link

By clicking the link, you can open a new tab with an overview page from the Van Gogh Museum website.

Story: The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has 20 of Vincent's self-portraits: 19 paintings and one drawing. Now you can look at some of the portraits shown. Two portraits in the overview are also shown in later slides.

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

Then look at this detail from Van Gogh's self-portrait. Question: How would you describe the expression on Vincent's face? (Does he look happy, or angry, or something else...?)
> Vincent looks very concentrated (on the mirror).
Story: You can see Vincent's face from the side. This is called a painting in three-quarter view. Trick question: Which side of Vincent's face do you see? 
 >The left side (because he was looking in the mirror and painting what he saw).

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

And how would you describe Vincent's expression in this self-portrait?
Story: Here you are looking at Vincent's face from almost directly in front of him. When you have a full frontal view of a face, you call it a full-face portrait.
(Self-portrait, 1887)

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

Question: If you compare the face in three-quarter view with the other one, which is almost full face, what's the biggest difference?

> In the portrait that is almost full face, you can see both ears.

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

An easy question: Is this portrait in three-quarter view or full face?
> Full face.
Briefly discuss the proportions of the face. The basic shape is an oval, like an upside-down egg. You can draw one vertical and one horizontal line, each straight through the middle of the oval. Then divide the bottom half through the middle with a second horizontal line. Then you can see where to put the eyes, ears, mouth, and nose.

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Does your whiteboard have a touchscreen? If so, ask one student to draw the lines just described over the portrait on the board. The first step is to select the pencil in the menu. There's no need to draw the eyes, nose and mouth, but it's important to include the ears and the outline of the face and neck.
No touchscreen? Go on to the next slide.

Slide 10 - Tekstslide

Discussion: We can find those basic proportions in the face in Vincent's self-portrait. This self-portrait is not entirely full face, so the nose is not exactly in the middle.

Slide 11 - Tekstslide

Tell the students that, before they paint their own self-portraits, it's time for an exercise about the proportions of the face. Meanwhile, you can hand out the worksheets.

Slide 12 - Tekstslide

Give the students about 5 minutes to draw the missing half of the face. (Do you have a touchscreen? Then you can ask a student to do this on the board. Select the pencil to start drawing.) To make the exercise a little harder, you can have the students fold the sheet down the middle. After studying the completed half, they can try to draw the other half without a model. When they're done, go back to slide 11. Discuss their work.

Paint your own self-portrait

  1. First sketch the proportions of your face and neck. Use the worksheet as a model.
  2. Then pick the colours for your portrait.
  3. Think about the expression on your face: serious, gloomy,
    cheerful, or... ?

  4. Don't forget your clothing and the background.
You have about 50 minutes. Have fun!

Slide 13 - Tekstslide

Then talk to the students about the painting assignment. The comments on the board apply whether or not they use mirrors.
Talk about your painting

Slide 14 - Tekstslide

You can finish off the lesson by inviting a few students to talk about the paintings they made. How did it go? What was hard? And what was easy?

If some students aren't done, you could give them a chance to finish their paintings another time.