When Julie Johnston, art teacher at Delview Secondary, was looking for a portraiture subject for her Grade 9-to-12 students, she didn’t expect to have the subject matter practically land in her lap.
“I was planning to do a meaningful portrait project and had been thinking of working with local seniors,” Johnston said. “But one day at school we had a presentation by International Community Empowerment Foundation (ICEF) Canada about Tekera Primary School in Uganda, which students at Delview had been raising money to support.
“It was a perfect fit – the Ugandan school children would make wonderful subjects, and it would bring global meaning to the project for our students.”
Working with ICEF and the school in Uganda, Delview students “adopted” their primary student subject from photos sent by Tekera and then created the children’s portraits using a combination of charcoal, ink, chalk pastel and acrylic paint on painter’s masking paper.
The students first used a grid-process to create portraits using pencil on eight-and-a-half inch by 11 inch piece paper. Finished contour drawings were then projected onto 18 inch by 24 inch painter’s masking paper and students added shadows and highlights using a mixture of black and white chalk, charcoal and ink. Some students created accents by adding colour to clothing or the background using pastel, coloured ink or acrylic paint.
“My work was to teach portraiture drawing techniques to a group of 13-to-18-year-olds, including those with ESL challenges, autism, learning disabilities and other social and emotional difficulties. Many had little or no art experience,” Johnston said.
The finished portraits were photographed and laminated, and students were photographed holding their artworks. Copies of the nineteen drawings and the photos were then sent to Tekera.
This powerful collection of work has been on the road for over a year, starting with the B.C. Ministry of Education offices in Victoria and the University of Victoria’s MacLaurin building, home to the school’s faculty of education and school of music, during the BC Art Teachers’ Association’s annual conference.
Two of the pieces, by students Kali Pederson and Kurumi Takamatsu, were auctioned off at the Hands Up for Tekera Gala Fundraiser in Tsawwassen last June. The work is currently on display in the lobby of the Delta School Board’s office.
Both Pederson and Takamatsu received an eight inch by 10 inch professionally printed giclee (print) of their work.
“We rose to the challenge,” added Johnston. “The results exceeded my expectations. The students all found a level of success that they didn’t see possible for themselves.”