High School art students demonstrate how shoe choice reveals an aspect of self-expression.
Alternative Self-Portrait Painting
Although shoes aren’t usually the first thing others notice when seeing a person, shoes are at the top of the list of items that can reveal much about who we are.
High school art students in Painting/Drawing I, II, III worked side by side in completing their most recent assignment, the Shoe Self-Portrait. Though given the same task, students are held to separate expectations, depending on class level. Combining skill levels in class allows students the opportunity to learn from and encourage each other.
The project measured each student’s developing skill set in color theory on a 16 x 20 canvas: mixing and value, paint-media understanding and application, and the working of light and shadow to create value that reveals form.
High school art teacher Mrs. Sheila Gilkeson shares, “Shoe Self-Portrait allows students an alternative to a traditional self-portrait. Students select their specific shoes and compose their aesthetic. The assignment is packed with technical hurdles (color theory, value, application of textures, etc) and yet provides insight and specifics reflecting the individual.”
From Resident Artist and teaching assistant Scott Palmer: “We wear our shoes like we wear our face -- but there’s an expectation about what your face looks like -- what we think we should see gets in the way of what we see. Unlike clothes, which either change every day or are limited, our shoes we wear more often. Shoes provide a fuller expression of ourselves.”
Begin with an Image
The students assisted each other by taking photographs of their classmates wearing a pair of shoes that the artist felt best represented themselves. They positioned themselves in a posture that was both relaxed and intentional. The posture and placement of the artist wearing their shoes also reflected elements of the artist’s personality. The shoes ranged from sneakers to boots, with high and low tops.
With the photograph composition, students altered and adjusted lighting and color to help in the process of visualizing a painterly approach. After that, the students sketched the image onto canvas. From there, they began adding paint, color and dimension.
Take a Step
As each student takes a step, others see their shoes and get a good idea of that person’s style and interests; furthermore, the saying “walk a mile in their shoes” represents the truth that once we see what others have been through, we develop a deeper understanding of the person, which highlights the symbolism of the shoe portrait. Taking a moment to examine their shoes and represent themselves to the world through the Shoes Self-Portrait allowed students to learn more about themselves while developing their artistic skills.