Exploring Our Identity through Art 8th Grade Visual Art with Chris Love

For millennia, philosophers have considered the question of who we are. At Rivers, students are encouraged to explore this age-old inquiry through artistic lenses. Middle School art teacher Chris Love uses art projects and skill-building exercises to plumb the depths of student identity and build appreciation for artistic techniques.

“Over the years, I have seen too many students edit their personal story based on what they think others want to see,” says Love. “My goal is to use art to help students learn to see themselves more clearly.”

Love starts the year by instructing students to draw self-portraits that include a line down the middle of the page that separates their summer self from their school self. Asking the students to depict the components of their “twin” selves in as much detail as they can helps them start to see the difference between who they are and who they might think they are. As the students work, Love instructs them on the use of line and color in their drawings and how to use visual cues and symbols to convey meaning.

Art teacher Chris Love keeps a watchful eye on the work students are creating, leaning in when necessary to make suggestions or demonstrate a technique.

The fall continues with students working on personal stories that have written and visual components. With the focus still on self-exploration, the projects that students tackle are designed to demonstrate how different media, alternative techniques, and varying color can convey a large part of their story in a way that words might not. An iteration of this quest for identity involves another round of self-portraits as part of Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that celebrates remembering friends and family members.

“For this project,” says Love, “students take a selfie and transform it into a mask representing how they would express their personality and tell their own story through images on their face.”

My goal is to use art to help students learn to see themselves more clearly." — Chris Love, art teacher

During one classroom exercise, Love had Middle School students drawing their shoe over and over again in five-second increments from 10 seconds to 45 seconds. It was an unusual exercise. And, in fact, he even told the students that, for centuries, drawing was not considered art; drawing was used to practice learning how to paint. In this instance, though, he wanted students to see shapes as well as details, to experience the simplicity of line and form, and to understand that “you’ve got to mess up to get great.”

“I tell my students that they need to learn to risk it all. If you feel bored doing the same artistic task repeatedly, ramp up the challenge by using different colors or new media," Love says. "Ultimately, I want students to understand that they can learn from each effort of drawing what they see, and that what they see in front of them is an aspect of who they are.”

Photos by John Hurley

Created By
The Rivers School