On Monday, we were fortunate to work with the National Portrait Gallery. As a school, we were really looking forward to taking part in the Gallery’s Faces and Places workshop. This opportunity focused on the idea that portraits document a moment in time. Faces and Places connects the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection to seven of London’s boroughs, using portraits of people who have lived in those places. We looked at the ways that portraits give us clues about our society and our culture. We discussed what portraits can reveal about a person, and our past as Londoners.

We looked at a selection of portraits of famous faces from Westminster, including Bradley Wiggins, Madame Tussauds, and Winifred Atwell. We discussed what made these people important, or famous. We really enjoyed using carbon paper, where we explored different mark making. We tried to look at the shapes that we could see in the portraits, and recreated this, using marks. It was quite tough to do, because we couldn’t see what was underneath the paper! We carefully lifted the carbon paper to check what marks we had made. It was a good chance for us to practice a new technique, and remind ourselves that art does not always have to be perfect!

We also looked at the qualities of artwork, thinking about the clues that might have been included in a piece of art that tells us a little more about the interest of the person. Lots of us loved the portrait of Lily Cole because we loved the colours and the butterflies. We thought that this could mean that she has an interest in nature. Her clothing also gave us clues that she could be a model!

We worked larger pieces of card, to map out the proportions of a head, before we had a go at creating our own self-portraits. We used careful mark-making, so that we knew where to position our eyes, noses and mouths. We used little mirrors to check our features before drawing. We made sure to take our time with each section of our portrait, so as to make it as realistic as possible.

Once we had done this, we then looked at Automobile Head by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. This uses different mechanical components within a portrait. These types of drawings were far different to those within the collection. We had examples of various cogs, screws and other machinery and then used the carbon paper to trace the parts onto sections of our portrait. We then used charcoal to add more depth to our portraits. We thought about any shadows and where we could add light/dark to our image.

We really enjoyed this workshop and learnt lots of great techniques for creating portraits. We also loved the opportunity to learn a little bit more about famous faces from Westminster. To have a closer look at the portraits that we studied, you can look at the National Portrait Gallery’s website! https://www.npg.org.uk/learning/schools-and-colleges/faces-and-places/faces-and-places?tags=Westminster

We would really like to thank the National Portrait Gallery for working with us. We had such a fantastic afternoon!

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