The Big Idea The students will create mixed media self portraits in the style of Shepard Fairey, a contemporary artist whose public work is widely known for it's graphic approach and political undertone. In this assignment, students are required to produce an image through the stencil process that not only captures their likeness, but also speaks to their personal values or deeper persona.
Introduction to Shepard Fairey The following videos will be shown in class to help the students better understand both the process and purpose behind the work of Shepard Fairey.
The Process Stage One: "Ideation" After watching the videos and viewing the website of Shepard Fairey, the students are asked to brainstorm in their journals the type of self portrait pose and symbol that might summarize or unveil some aspect of their personality or values. The symbol they choose will be incorporated into their final image, much like the first example of Shepard Fairey's works to the left. Both the symbol and the self portrait will be be simplified, as they will be created through stencils and spray paint, a process that leaves little room for complex detail. Students will use Photoshop to simplify the photograph, and will use sketchbooks to refine and simplify the symbol that will be used. It is suggested that many versions or "ideations" of the symbol be developed in the journal before a final decision is made to create the stencils. Before the collage or stencils are created, students are required to write a brief explanation of what the symbol and pose mean to them.
Stage Two: "The Collage" Once the students have finished with the overall design of the pose and symbols to be used, they are to create the collage surface on which the stencils will be sprayed. This process is not to be treated arbitrarily, but instead should involve the careful and considerate curation of typography and images that will bring deeper meaning to the stenciled images. Excellent works of art will contain conceptual meaning in the collage, supporting the graphic portraits that sit upon their surface. The collages will be created through the layering of newspaper, magazine, found paper scraps, and stenciled or printed patterns.
Stage Three: Cutting the Stencils After the collages have been finished and are prepared for the stenciled portraits, the students will need to project, trace, and cut their stencils on the tag board provided. This is a meticulous and careful process that involves planning. Stencils should not be traced or cut hastily, as exactitude is needed to produce a proper likeness in the work. Some students may choose to use multiple colors, while others might be content to stick with just a simplified one color stencil. A detailed tutorial will be given in class about how to translate the digital photograph of the student into a simplified and graphic image much like those used by Shepard Fairey.