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Student Projects

Stippling Self Portraits

Author: Andrea Barrett

Grade: 8th

Subject: Art

Stipple portrait
Stipple portrait
Stipple portrait
Stipple portrait
Stipple portrait
Stipple portrait
Stipple portraits
Students drawing stipple portrait
Students drawing stipple portrait

The purpose of this project is to learn to shade using the stippling technique. Students will first practice this technique on an egg since it is shaped similar to a face.  The teacher will project the image of an egg on the wall screen for students to view. Students will then map out the areas of shadow with lines, then place a circle where they see the lightest area of reflection. They will learn to create the shading with dots only, known as the stippling technique. Where there is shadow, students make the dots closer together. As they reach the lightest area of reflection, they use less and less dots. Then, they will create an 8.5” x 11” thumbnail sketch of their own face using this stippling technique. They will trace a photograph of themselves, mapping out the highlights and shadows of their faces. They will use their favorite color Sharpie marker to create a monochromatic thumbnail sketch. Students will also practice using tints and shades to add depth to their work. Finally, students will use the opaque projector to trace their thumbnail sketch onto a piece of 3’ x 3’ butcher paper, following the same process as the thumbnail sketch to create their final piece. At the midpoint of the project, students will participate in a whole class critique so they have the opportunity to give and receive feedback. They will also use that time review vocabulary, reflect on their own progress, and gain valuable insight into how to improve their work. At the end of the project, students will participate in a final critique and reflection, and will be given one last opportunity to make any final revisions to their artwork.



The Stippling Self-Portrait project was the first of the semester with my 8th graders.  In the beginning, I was concerned with whether or not they retained skills from their time in my class in the 6th grade.  When we discussed concepts and completed practice sketches, I was pleasantly surprised at how much they remembered from being in my class two years earlier.  In the middle of the project we completed a class critique of 20 self-portraits.  All students participated in the critique using classroom vocabulary.  I was surprised at the thoughtful feedback my students provided, and the language and constructive criticism did not stop after the group critique.  I was pleased to observe my students continue to offer advice and confide in their peers for assistance with their work.  My favorite part of the Stippling Self-Project project was the final group critique.  I was able to hang 40 final portraits for the final critique.  Many students received amazing advice from their peers, although, the most challenging part of the project was getting students to actually take the advice of their classmates.  When the critique began many students felt their work was done.  I think this is why most students did not want to take the advice of their peers.  In order to convince students to take the advice, I met with several students individually to go over the critiques they received from the class.  Then I gave the students a choice to change their work or not.  Most students opted not to change their work.  This is something that I would like to build into the critiques in the future, so there will be more time and incentive for students to want to revise their artwork more.  Overall, I am incredibly pleased with how the final portraits came out.  This is a project I plan to do again in the future.

  • Thumbnail Sketch (8.5” x 11”)
  • Self Portrait (3’ x 3’)

Students will know:

Specific vocabulary related to the project: Self-Portrait, Thumbnail Sketch, hue, tint, shade, monochromatic, pointillism, aesthetic
Students will understand:

  •  How artists use thumbnail sketches to develop the initial concept of a larger art piece
  • The importance of viewing their work from a distance of approximately 5 feet in order to see it as others will
  • How to determine highlights and shadows in an object or face
  • How to use the critique process to give and receive specific feedback
  • How to improve their work based on feedback from critiques

Students will be able to:

  • Map the highlights and shadows of their own faces
  • Use the stippling technique to create shading in a self-portrait
  • Create a 3’ x 3’ self portrait from a thumbnail sketch using an opaque projector
  • Evaluate a piece of art in a professional manner, using specific feedback
  • Elements of Art
  • Value
  • Form
  • Texture
  • The stippling technique


  • Photograph of student
  • Sharpies in various colors
  • 8.5” x 11” paper for thumbnail sketches
  • 3’ x 3’ butcher paper for large self-portraits
  • Opaque Projector
Suggested Time
The Egg: an introduction to the stippling technique
2 days
Creating the thumbnail sketch(es)
5 days
 Creating the final 3’ x 3’ work
10 days
 Total Project Time
3.5 weeks