As part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program, students at Novato High School explored identity with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. The 10-week residency kicked off with personal exploration, creating abstract self portraits using emotive and descriptive lines and shapes. The project was a fun and engaging way to asses where each of our new students was at and acted as a safe introduction to self-portraiture. By using materials that students were used to and tapping into our human love of doodling, we were able to start building a vocabulary around what a portrait and art can be.
We began by coming up with a list of five adjectives to describe ourselves – these adjectives could describe the things we liked, who we imagined ourselves to be, or what we were good at. Then we turned each word into a line by asking ourselves: “What kind of line is “curious”? What kind of line is “awesome”? How do we draw “grumpy”?” We explored these questions and more, thinking about the characteristics that we associate with certain words and what they might look like in our everyday lives. We then started our drawings by sketching in pencil as we brainstormed the visual meaning of each word we had chosen. For the final project using gold and silver Sharpies and black canvas boards, we made patterns using our lines. Some of us covered the entire canvas with linear patterns while others worked in a more freeform and organic way. We talked about issues of identity and what we choose to reveal about ourselves in our work and in our everyday lives.
Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grant that Marin County Office of Education received, we are in multiple Special Day Classrooms. This residency is one of the programs that have benefitted from this collaboration.