As this is a portrait piece, when I choose the subject(s) for this assignment, I try to find people relevant to the month we're in. Since my kids did this project in November I researched famous Native Americans and based on the photos available chose Chief Red Cloud and Geronimo.
Step 1: Find a good quality black and white photograph of your subject on the internet. Of course, finding a "large" image is best, but a "medium" image will usually do. If you can only get a "medium" sized photo and the individual pieces end up pixelated, dont' worry! I've done this a few times and found that sometimes the pixelated pieces actually work out better than the clearer ones, because the kids have to make more decisions as they work.
Step 2: In Photoshop, or any other photo-editing program, crop the image as much as possible. When you resize the image, you want each side to round to a full inch. For example, 5x5 or 7x5. (This will make step 3 easier.) You also want to try and eliminate as much of the background as you can. Background parts will end up as "blank" pieces for the kids, and those are boring. I usually end up with one or two blank pieces every time I do this, but I use them as "extra credit" pieces for the kids who finish early. Also while in Photoshop, bump up the contrast and play with the levels so you get a nice range of blacks and whites.
Here are my two photos after steps 1 and 2:
Step 3: Now you're ready to grid the image and make individual pieces. This part is the most time consuming, but once you get in a rhythm, it's not so bad. In Photoshop, make the Rulers visible and drag and drop the blue guide lines so that you've marked out 1"x1" pieces, like this:
Then, use the marquee tool to drag a box around each individual piece:
If you hit Control/Command C it will copy that piece, then Control/Command N for a New box, then Control/Command V to paste it, save each piece individually. Remember to number them, and also to make the same number of pieces as you have students! Like I said before, I usually end up with a few "extras." Once you're finished, you should have a folder that looks something like this:
Step 5: Print all the pages out and be sure to number them at the top. This works best if you have a laserjet printer- we have one in the photo room and it cranks these babies out in seconds!
Next, all you have to do is cut 1'x1' pieces of white drawing paper and give each student their print and blank page. I teach them about a simple way to grid their images and let them get started.
If you're really picky about how the final piece comes out, what I usually do is assess my kids before assigning them pieces. If I have a more challenging, detailed or identifiable piece, like an eye, I try to give it to a kid who I know is up for the challenge. For a student who has less natural ability, I try to give them a less identifiable piece, this way they're not discouraged if it doesn't turn out perfect in the end. I also try to arrange it so no two pieces are assigned to kids who sit at the same table- that way they don't try to match them up.
I stress to the kids the importance of gridding out their work as it will ensure their piece "fits" with their neighbor's piece. I also tell them they'll be graded not only on the accuracy of their shading and sizing, but also on how well it works with the surrounding pieces once we put it all together, so that usually lights a fire under them to do a good job.
I love hanging day!
First I find a spot in the hall that can house our piece (some of these end up 7 feet tall by 5 feet wide!). Then I call the kids out to the hall in groups based on their numbers (1-5, 6-10, etc.) I have them roll tape and place them in each corner and the center of their square, then start hanging.
The kids are always unsure about this project, but as soon as they start putting the pieces together, they all freak out with excitement!
Here are the two final products from this year:
I'm in love with them both! My "Chief Red Cloud" (top) class was a little stronger and did a better job with their values, but my "Geronimo" (bottom) class did pretty well, too! What's fun is when all the pieces are up, I let the kids go out as a group to see it and discuss which pieces are successful and why. Sometimes kids see their piece in context and ask, "Can I add to it while it's on the wall?" and they'll whip out their pencil to add value, or clean it up a bit. My favorite is when they all start taking photos of it on their phone. We hung them two days apart, so when the first one went up, I had kids coming into class saying, "This guy was in everyone's snap chat story!" I love that the whole school is getting to see and share our work!
Of course, beside each piece I list the artists who worked on it as well as a blurb about each of the subjects.
Give it a try and let me know how it works out!