DISTORTED PORTRAIT – Value, Shape, Space

Students use an altered grid to enlarge and change the proportions of an image of their face to create a distorted self-portrait.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 7 to Grade 9


Language Arts
Visual Arts


distortion grid system shape value


Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Colors of the World Coloured Pencils - 24 Count Crayola Sketchbooks - 1 per student Crayola Glue Sticks Crayola Scissors Rulers Pencils Erasers

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DISTORTED PORTRAIT –  Value, Shape, Space - Step One

Step One

  1. Work with a partner to take pictures of each other head and shoulders only.
  2. Resize the photo so it is 7.6 cm x 7.6 cm (3" x 3").
  3. Cut it out and glue it into your sketchbook.
  4. Use the grid system to enlarge the photo to about 16.5 cm x 24 cm (6 ½" x 9 ½").
    (See the Picture This lesson plan available on this website.)
    - draw a grid with 1.3 cm (½") squares on top of the photograph
    - assign a letter to each column of the grid
    - assign a number to each row of the grid
    - on a 20.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") piece of paper draw a grid with an equal number of spaces but change the spacing of the vertical and horizontal lines 
    - assign matching letters to the columns of the grid
    - assign matching numbers to the rows of the grid
    - use the letter/number combination on the photograph to find the corresponding section on the larger grid
    - draw
     the shapes you see in each section of the grid on the photograph in the corresponding section of the larger grid
DISTORTED PORTRAIT –  Value, Shape, Space - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Use the Crayola Colors of the World coloured pencils to colour your drawing. 
  2. Sort the skin colours you are going to use into a group of light, medium and dark values.
  3. As you colour pay attention to where the highlights and shadows are.
  4. Use coloured pencils to finish the drawing.
DISTORTED PORTRAIT –  Value, Shape, Space - Step Three

Step Three

  1. View your finished drawing with fresh eyes.
  2. How do the colours create the illusion of depth?
  3. Give your drawing a title.
  4. What do you see that makes this a good title?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create a distorted self-portrait using coloured pencil techniques;
  • use an altered grid to enlarge and change the proportions of an image of their face;
  • use 3 different values of colours to show shadows and highlights;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • use the Inspired by Chuck Close lesson plan available on this website to explore the way he used grids;
  • present their work to the class explaining what they learned from the process.


  1. ​Prior to this lesson you may want to have students practice/learn the grid system using the Picture This lesson available on this website.
  2. Download and display the Shape, Value, and Space posters available on this website.
    - review or teach the elements of shape and value – positive and negative shapes, the ligtness or darkness of a colour
    - review or teach the principle of contrast – extreme differences
  3. Review and have students practice scanning or downloading a photo, and then resizing it. 
  4. Review or teach the proportions of the face. (Downloads - Proportions_Face.pdf)
  5. Download the face transformations images by Albrecht Dürer from the Internet.


  1. Ask students to share what they know about transforming and morphing images on their devices and how they feel about the images they can create.
  2. View and discuss the Dürer transformation images.
    - Albrecht Dürer was a German artist during the Renaissance
    - he invented the transformation grid or morphing grid in the early 1500s
    - this is the same process that we use today with the transformation and morphing tools in image processing programs such as Corel Photo-Paint and Photoshop
    - sometimes artists change the proportions of a subject to create a special effect or just for fun

    - changing the proportions using a grid means that the distorted elements will still have the correct relationships so the drawing is more effective
  3. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Resize a photo of yourself.
  2. Use an altered grid to enlarge and change the proportions of the image.
  3. Use 3 different values of colours to show the shadows and highlights.
  4. Give your drawing a title.
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  6. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artworks.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students. For example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created a distorted self-portrait 
    - used the grid system to enlarge a photo of myself
    - used contrasting colours and values 
    - explained my process
    - gave my work a title
    - explained how my title reflects the artwork
    - kept the artwork in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work. 
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Display the self-portraits as a ‘body of work’.
  2. Ask students to gather in front of the display and look at the works thoughtfully.
  3. Ask them to find 3 things they find interesting about one of them.
  4. During the discussion include references to:
    - distortion - how it affects the overall impact of the work
    - contrast - how contrast is used in the face and the drawing as a whole
    - feelings the work evokes
    - communication - how the title connects with the image
  5. Display the images in and around the classroom so students can view them as a body of work throughout the next few weeks.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their self-portraits – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the self-portrait, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – DistortedPortrait_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads – DistortedPortrait_self-assessment.pdf)