Posterized Clay Portraits Lesson Plan

Posterized Clay Portraits Lesson Plan

[MUSIC PLAYING] In many ancient
cultures, pottery was primarily decorated
by using a liquefied version of clay known as slip. It’s very much
like a clay paint, and it was limited to
the color of the clay– usually a spectrum of
red, green, or black. If an ancient
potter were working in today’s selfie culture,
they might come up with a project like this one– a tritone portrait made of clay. It’s a lot easier to do
than you might think. So start with a digital
selfie and posterize it in the photo application
to just three levels. So you would have
white, gray, and black. Print two copies the size you’d
like the finished piece to be. Tape one of the
images down, and then tape a piece of tracing
paper over the top of it. The other copy can be
used as a reference. So I’m just going to set
this up here for now. Posterizing an image breaks it
down into very basic shapes. So I’m going to trace the basic
shapes with a permanent pen, so it becomes kind of a
paint-by-number type image. Notice that I am not
tracing every single pixel. I’m trying to simplify
it as much as possible. OK, here’s a piece where
I’ve traced all of the edges. I like to start with the
lightest color of clay first, because it
keeps my hands cleaner. I also like to start
with larger areas first, say a forehead
or perhaps a cheek area. I save the detail areas,
like around the eyes– I save those for
last, because they’re a lot more difficult to do. I’m using ACTÍVA PLUS clay. It’s self-hardening, so
you won’t need a kiln. Now, you can use other brands
of self-hardening clay or air dry clay. Or you could actually
use polymer clay to do something like this too. Don’t change brands, though. It’s very important to use
the same clay body for all of the colors within the piece. They all dry at
different rates, and you might experience some
cracking or warping if you use different pieces. So you notice I started by
rolling a coil out, and then outlining the shape
with the coil. I can use a tool to
smooth this together. I have some
silicone-tipped clay tools. These are good. If the clay starts to
dry out a little bit, just add some water by dipping
your finger in a cup of water and smoothing it out. And if you accidentally push the
clay over the Sharpie outline, take your tool, just push it
back, or cut any excess away. So after I’ve completed some
of the light-colored areas, I’m going to move on to the
midtone, which in this case is terracottas called a clay. Now, on the posterized image,
these are the gray areas. Once again, I’ll start
with creating some coils, and then I’m also going to begin
with some of the larger areas. In this case, some of the hair. Now, where the
colors meet, I can leave either a clean
transition, or I could go back to my
tools or my finger and blend them a little
bit, just for a softer look. When it comes to small
details such as eyes, I’m going to use
much smaller coils. And you’ll notice that as
the tracing paper becomes more and more
covered by clay, it’s going to become
increasingly more difficult to see the shapes
that are underneath there. That’s where it’s handy
to have a second print to use as a reference. A few things to keep in mind as
you’re creating your portrait. First of all, keep your
clay from drying out by keeping it in a bag. Keep it zipped locked, or
at least tucked under so that the air
doesn’t get into it. Second, not every detail
needs to be covered. Images can be simplified
and still be very effective. Third, texture. The benefit to creating
a portrait in clay is that it’s so easy to
create textured areas. You can use tools. You could use a roller,
a texture plate perhaps. Just press it into the clay
and create really fun textures. Now, when you have finished
creating the portrait out of clay, it’s important
to remove the tape. As the clay dries, it’s
going to shrink a little bit. And the paper needs to
be able to move with it. Once it’s complete, gently
turn the portrait over and cover the backside with a
layer of clay to add strength and to fill any spaces that
might have been missed. As it dries, it’s very helpful
to turn the piece over now and then to allow air
to get to both sides. This will speed
up the drying time and will help prevent warping. Do not try to speed up drying
by putting it in front of a fan. Just be patient, and
let it happen naturally. Now, you can be
careful and patient and do everything right,
and stress fractures may still show up. Now, don’t worry. This can actually be
a very good thing, and really add to the
ancient quality of the piece. In fact, you may want to press
gently and add a few more cracks. Just be careful, though. Too much cracking and
it might fall apart. This piece shows you that
it doesn’t necessarily have to be a clay portrait. This is a landscape created
from a photo with this piece. Once it’s finished, coat
the clay with a matte medium to seal everything
before moving it. In this case, I’ve used
a Mod Podge matte medium. Allow it to dry, and then turn
it over and seal the backside. And I also think
it’s a good idea to mount the piece too
by gluing it to mat board for added strength. For the three colors of
clay and all the other tools you might need to complete this
project, visit to find step-by-step
instructions, a materials list, and much more.

2 thoughts on “Posterized Clay Portraits Lesson Plan

  1. You guys clearly need some marketing help… thanks for taking over my subscription feed.

    I was a subscriber all but 48hrs before I de-subscribed!

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