Beards of Art History: The Final Four

After Friday’s voting, we are down to the final four in our Beards of Art History contest. George Ohr continues to breeze through the bracket (he took 91% of the vote), and Dali (83%) hasn’t had too much trouble either. Frida Kahlo BARELY beat out Carl Andre, and Ai Weiwei won in a fairly comfortable fashion over Ana Mendieta and her glued on mustache. So that leaves us with this:

(1) George Ohr v. (4) Frida Kahlo

(2) Salvador Dali v. (3) Ai Weiwei

Smashing Faces

Window? Check.

Windex and Paper Towels? Check.

Camera? Check.

A willingness of students and their teacher to look incredibly ridiculous, have that look captured forever, and turned into a drawing for all to see? Check. We’re ready to draw.

Welcome to our Smashed Face Portrait Project.


Kids love this project because it’s a little bit out of the ordinary and a lot of fun. I love this project because it’s simple, but really exciting for the kids; they’re always motivated to work. It’s nothing more than smashing faces, taking and printing pictures, figuring out composition, and going to work. I generally teach the lesson with my advanced classes, because I appreciate the juxtaposition and irony of well-rendered subjects that look so ridiculous.

The lesson works with any level, though, because it recontextualizes facial features. It’s generally difficult to teach drawing faces, because kids think they need to make everything perfect. When you distort features, change proportions, and alter visual cues, there’s not a lot of ‘perfect’ left; you can only draw what’s there. It takes away the mental block that’s holding kids back when they’re working on portraits.

I originally came up with the project after looking at one of my favorite artists of all time, Ana Mendieta. When she was at the University of Iowa, she did a series of works with her face and body smashed against a pane of glass, distorting her features.

We were talking about her work during an art history discussion, and I remembered seeing those photos when I was in Iowa City. I thought that we could transfer that idea into a decent drawing subject, and a project was born. I appreciate a little serendipity now and again :)

A few of our pictures:

And a couple of drawings in progress:



That’s me in the top one, and my favorite co-teacher in the one below. We’ll get some pictures up of more of the finished products–they’re going to be good.