INSPIRED BY CHUCK CLOSE – Self-Portrait, Colour, Pattern, Shape

Students study the work of Chuck Close and then use markers to create a self-portrait inspired by his style.

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 6 to Grade 9


Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour grid system pattern shape


Crayola Super Tip Markers - 50 Count Crayola Colours of the World Markers - 24 Count Crayola Sketchbooks - 1 per student Crayola Marker & Watercolour paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Washable Glue Sticks Rulers Pencils Erasers

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INSPIRED BY CHUCK CLOSE – Self-Portrait, Colour, Pattern, Shape - Step One

Step One

  1. Sort your markers into groups of 3 light, medium and dark colours you like.
  2. Practise working on a small grid making shapes and patterns the way Chuck Close does.
    - repeated squares
    - triangles
    - lozenges
    - right-angles
    - ovals
  3. Think about how to make some areas dark and other areas light.
INSPIRED BY CHUCK CLOSE – Self-Portrait, Colour, Pattern, Shape - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Work with a partner to take pictures of each other.
  2. Pose in the style of Chuck Close.
    - close-up front view
    - serious expression
    - head and shoulders only
  3. Resize the photo so it is 11.4 cm x 15.2 cm (4 ½" x 6").
  4. Cut it out and glue it into your sketchbook.
  5. Use the grid system to enlarge the photo to 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12"). (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
    - draw a grid with 2.5 cm (1") squares on the 20.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") paper
    - 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
INSPIRED BY CHUCK CLOSE – Self-Portrait, Colour, Pattern, Shape - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Colour each square in your drawing using the colour combinations you created.
  2. Use shapes, colours and patterns to create contrast.
  3. View your finished portrait with fresh eyes.
    - How is it like the work of Chuck Close?
    - How is it different?
    - What do you like best about the drawing? Why?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create a self-portrait in the style of Chuck Close;
  • ​use the grid method to enlarge a photo of themselves;
  • create patterns using colours and shapes;
  • explain their process and how it compares to that of Chuck Close;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • work in 5 small groups;
  • each group take one part of Chuck Close's life/career;
  • write a script for their part;
  • practise and video their performance;
  • present their videos to the class.


  1. ​Prior to this lesson you may want to have students practise/learn the grid system using the Picture This lesson available on this website.
  2. Gather and make available books about Chuck Close, for example, Chuck Close Up Close, by Jan Greenberg, and Sandra Jordan; Chuck Close: Face Book, by Chuck Close; and Chuck Close: Life, by Christopher Finch.
  3. Download images of Chuck Close portraits from the Internet.
  4. View the inspirational Notes to Myself video featuring Chuck Close and summarize information about Chuck Close's life and art, for example, Artyfactory and Walker Art Centre.
  5. Download and display the Shape, Colour, Pattern, and Contrast posters available on this website.
    - review or teach the elements of shape and colour – positive and negative shapes, warm and cool colours
    - review or teach the principle of contrast – extreme differences


  1. View and discuss the Notes to Myself video focussing on the message Close talks about and what it means to your students.
  2. View and discuss a painting such as a self-portrait available at the Walker Art Centre or Artyfactory.
    - size of painting
    - use of grid
    - process (see description at Artyfactory)
    - use of colour
    - his shape vocabulary - repeated squares, triangles, lozenges
  3. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a self-portrait in the style of Chuck Close.
  2. Use the grid process to enlarge a photo of yourself.
  3. Create patterns using colours and shapes.
  4. Explain your process and how it compares to that of Chuck Close.
  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 self-portrait in the style of Chuck Close
    - used the grid system to enlarge a photo of myself
    - created patterns using colours and shapes
    - used contrasting colours
    - explained my process
    - compared my process to that of Chuck Close
    - 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:
    - use of shapes and patterns - how they affect the overall impact of the work
    - contrast - how contrast is used in the individual squares and the drawing as a whole
    - feelings the work evokes
    - communication - what the self-portrait tells the viewer about the artist
  5. Display the images in and around the classroom so students can view them 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 – CloseSelf-Portrait_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads – CloseSelf-Portrait_self-assessment.pdf)