Did I ever mention that Faith Ringgold is one of my favorite artists? I love the messages in her story quilts: community, heritage, harmony...
Ever since I walked into the Chicago Cultural Center back in 2000 to view her quilt exhibit, I was hooked on her quilts. I was even a great honor to shake her hand after receiving my bachelor's diploma at my commencement ceremony at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago back in 2001. And yes, I've met her again since then.
My students think it's cool that I've met a famous artist. When I show them the picture, they always say, "You met her? That is so cool!" or I'll even get, "She's real?" Yes...I get that.
I like to introduce a project inspired by Faith Ringgold's community quilts around the end of February/beginning of March. I tie in Black History Month and continue with Women's History Month since this project could take a few weeks.
Before the students know what the project is about, we spend time reading a story written by Faith Ringgold called "How the People Became Color Blind." The link takes you directly to her website with a story you can print out and read to your class. After we read the story, the students and I have a discussion about the story, asking questions about how we would feel if the world was all one color.
Here are the materials for the project:
-10.5" x 10.5" white paper, 60lb. (thin paper will rip from the paint)
-12" x 12" color paper (if you frame each picture)
-paper plates (my palettes)
-multicultural tempura paints for skin and hair
-water and water bowls
When I'm ready to start the project, I go over step by step how to draw the face. This project is also my main portrait project with 4th grade, so many of them are starting to draw faces for the first time (my district has a high transient rate). I start with the oval face, then show where to draw the guidelines for the eyes, nose, mouth, and hairline. The students are always fascinated that their ears start and end on their nose lines too!
Here are two print-outs I found on Pinterest that can be used as guides for the students:
After showing the students how to draw the face and shoulders, I encourage students to draw other details that would define who they are (for example, flags that represent pride and heritage, or drawings that represent what the student likes and cares about).
The point is to have all the students create painting of their individual selves, then combine them together to show our school community.
Day 1 of painting is for the neutrals and flesh tones. I put out a plate of different peaches, browns, and tans, along with black and white. I tell the students to paint their face, leaving the eyes open (sometimes the students paint over the eyes!), and to not forget the ears and neck (yeah, that happens too!). I also encourage students to paint their hair color, and if they have brown eyes.
Day 2 of painting is for the other colors of the rainbow, which can be used for clothing, background, eyes, and jewelry.
Day 3 is for touch ups. It's a pain trying to carry ALL those colors on a cart or to pour ALL the colors for the students who were absent or behind, but it has to happen. I normally have a bin for neutrals/flesh tone paints and a bin for the other colors, and I have students carry the bins for me back to the storage room. Also, don't pour every single color out on the plates, it takes too much time and not every student needs all the colors! Instead, I have the students at each table tell me what colors they need and I can pour it twice as fast as I would pouring all the colors out. Many students may be done with painting on this day too, so I have them trace their pictures with black markers. This helps bring the eyes, noses, and mouths back from painting over them.
Day 4 is for final tracing and display. You can choose to have each picture framed themselves, or you can display the paintings together as a "quilt" by gluing each block onto a sheet of kraft paper from the big tools. I also trim strips of colored paper to add a top frame to each project (which protects the paintings from students bumping into the displays on the walls in the hallway).
Here are some close-ups of student projects from past displays!