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Level: Middle School, High School
Grades: 6 - 12 | Age: 11 and up | Written by: Alison J. Lorion
[Alison is an art teacher at Dr. Franklin Perkins School in Lancaster, Massachusetts]

Using artist Chuck Close as inspiration, students will learn how to draw portraits using the grid system.


Many of my students enjoy drawing, but many of them say, "I can't draw!"

Discovering ways to instill in them and give confidence that they can draw is a difficult task. This past fall we discussed various American artists; Chuck Close was one of them. Students were curious about his way of painting and his disability. When many of them learned that he paints with a paintbrush strapped to his hand and is wheelchair bound, they thought that if he could paint like that, they could try to draw. By showing them examples of his work and presenting them with the grid system, they seemed more comfortable... focusing on one inch at a time. I also gave them a viewfinder so they could just see that 1-inch section and not be overwhelmed by the thought of the whole portrait.

The most difficult part then was ruler skills. Many students were having difficulty with the exact grid dimensions on their photocopied portrait picture and their drawing paper. I found them to be losing patience and getting frustrated, so making a grid on drawing paper myself 1 inch by 1 inch squares on a 8 ½" X 11" sheet and putting in the photocopier with transparencies to have them be the same, simplified things tremendously.

All the students had to do was to tape the grid transparency to the portrait photocopy. They found this to be helpful and less frustrating. This then gave them the confidence they needed to look at the portrait and assess the shapes and values more closely.

Drawing the human figure is one of the most difficult things and my students always are intimidated by it, these modifications relived some of that tension and gave them the confidence that they need to believe in themselves that they can do it. It also got them quickly into the drawing part of the assignment. Many times there are just too many preparation steps in a project and students lose interest and then are not motivated to complete the assignment. It is our job as teachers to keep students motivated and these simple project modifications are an example of that.

The Dr. Franklin Perkins School, located in Lancaster, Massachusetts, is a special needs school that services students with cognitive limitation, emotional and psychiatric disabilities and behavioral challenges.

Length of Project:

3-4 periods (1 period = 45 min)


Prior Knowledge/Experience:


Students will:

National (USA) Standards for Visual Arts Education: 1.a, 1.b, 1.d, 2.a, 2.b, 2.c, 5.a, 6.b

Massachusetts Visual Arts Curriculum Frameworks 5-8th grade: 1.7, 1.8, 2.7, 2.8, 2.10, 3.4, 4.4, 4.5, 4.8, 5.5, 9.3, 10.2


What You Need:

Optional Materials: Drawing boards, Sketchbooks


What You Do:




Summary: Transfer/Extensions:


Attendance, Behavior, Effort, Verbal Discussion, Rubric or Checklist, Finished Project, Critique or Class Review or Discussion.

Students learned:

Recommended Resources:

Close Call Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Recommended Books/Products:

Chuck Close, Up Close
by Jan Greenberg, Sandra Jordan

Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress (VHS Video)
Featuring interviews with Close, Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress traces the artist's evolution

Chuck Close
by Chuck Close, Robert Storr, Kirk Varnedoe
This volume, the most comprehensive assessment of Chuck Close's work yet published, accompanied a mid-career retrospective exhibition that opened at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, on February 25, 1998.

Draw Real People!
by Lee Hammond

How to Draw Lifelike Portraits from Photographs
by Lee Hammond

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