GRAD PICTURES – Colour Mixing, Form, Balance

Students use Model Magic to create a self-portrait that communicates something about them and how they feel about graduating from grade 8.

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 8 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Social Studies
Visual Arts


balance bas relief colour form rite of passage tertiary colours


Model Magic Classpack, Assorted White Foam Board - 20 cm x 25.5 cm (8" x 10") Toothpicks White Glue Sketchbook


GRAD PICTURES – Colour Mixing, Form, Balance - Step One

Step One

  1. Use your sketchbook to brainstorm ideas.
  2. Think about the composition and what you want to include.
    - text
    - symbols
    - profile, front view, face and shoulders, whole body 


GRAD PICTURES – Colour Mixing, Form, Balance - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Mix a colour you want to use for your skin.
  2. Make sure you mix enough for your whole face, neck and ears.
  3. Press the Model Magic onto the foam board and make sure it is sticking to the surface.
GRAD PICTURES – Colour Mixing, Form, Balance - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Add details that communicate your ideas.
  2. Make sure the Model Magic is sticking to the board. 
  3. You may need to use some white glue to secure small details.
GRAD PICTURES – Colour Mixing, Form, Balance - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Once you are satisfied with your grad picture look at it with fresh eyes.
  2. Use the worksheet to write an artist statement about your work. (Downloads - WriteArtistStatement.pdf)

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • use Model magic to create a bas-relief self-portrait;
  • communicate ideas using symbols and text;
  • mix a variety of tertiary colours;
  • write an artist statement;
  • explain the meaning of a rite of passage;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.


Have students:

  • gather information about their new high school;
  • create a graphic story about how their first day in high school might go. (Graphic Story lesson plan)


  1. Download images of self-portraits from the Internet, for example,
    Walt Whitman
    Frida Kahlo
  2. Download and display the Colour, Form, and Balance posters available on this website.
  3. Review or teach how to mix tertiary colours.
  4. Review or teach the proportions of the face. (Downloads - Proportions_Face.pdf)


  1. Ask students to work with a partner.
  2. Invite them to take turns sharing something they feel is significant about finishing elementary school.
  3. Once students have shared their ideas ask for a few volunteers to share with the class.
  4. Explain that moments of significance in life are called rites of passage. They are:
    - often marked with special ceremonies
    - meant to draw attention to a person's entry into a new stage of life
  5. Ask students to think about their coming graduation as a rite of passage.
    - What special ceremony has been planned for graduation?
    - What artifacts will be part of the special ceremony?
    - How will they and their parents remember the event?
  6. Explain that portraits can be made in many ways, for example, photography, painting and bas-relief sculpture.
  7. Explain that the bas-relief portraits are fairly flat. The shapes stand out slightly from the background and the whole sculpture is meant to be viewed from one side.
  8. View and discuss the images of portraits.
    Ask students to tell what the portraits tell them about the person, and what they see that makes them think that.
  9. Ask students to think about what they would want to communicate about themselves in a graduation self-portrait.
  10. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a bas-relief self-portrait using Model Magic.
  2. Communicate ideas using symbols and text.
  3. Mix a variety of tertiary colours.
  4. Write an artist statement.
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.

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 bas-relief self-portrait
    - communicated something about graduation that is important to me
    - communicated my ideas using symbols and text
    - created a composition that 
    moves the viewer's eye through the picture plane
    - mixed and used tertiary colours
    - kept the artwork in good condition
  3. Encourage students to think about how they can use colours, lines and symbols to communicate their ideas.
  4. Discuss how the placement of objects in a design can create areas of interest and emphasis that move the viewer's eye through the picture plane. 
  5. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  6. Observe students as they work. 
  7. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Display the self-portraits and artist statements 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 any of them.
  4. During the discussion include references to:
    - composition - placement of elements to create movement
    - details - things that add to the overall effectiveness of the work

    colour - how tertiary colours have been used 
    feelings the work evokes
    - communication - what the self-portrait tells the viewer about the artist
  5. Ask them to comment on how the self-portrait might be significant as a reminder of their rite of passage from elementary to secondary school.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss the self-portraits – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - GradPictures_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - GradPictures_self-assessment.pdf)