5th grade Tim Burton inspired Self Portraits

Watch out, there’s something extremely contagious in schools right now. Maybe you’ve heard of it before – it’s Tim Burton Self Portrait Fever. Few teachers are immune, but art teachers are particularly susceptible. Beware.

All of the sudden a few months ago, I started seeing some really cool black and white self portraits drawn in the style of Tim Burton. Then I saw more of them on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. They had become the “It” art project. I imagined our 5th graders enjoying it, so we took the leap.

This art teacher’s projects inspired me first, so I bought her teaching guide on Teachers Pay Teachers.

We researched Tim Burton at length before we started drawing to get a feel for his style. We compared and contrasted what you would usually see in his characters.

I really liked sharing an artist most of my students have heard of (at least some of his movies, if not him.) I also enjoyed finally sharing a super financially successful living artist with my classes. Several of our artist inspirations enjoy success after they’ve passed away, so this was a welcome change.

Tim Burton started out as an awkward kid who loved drawing and movies and just chased that as hard as he could. That too was fun to share.

We drew our portraits in pencil, traced in Sharpie, and added pencil shading. Seeing the students learn how to shade was one of my favorite parts of this project as a teacher.

We also designed our own frames to surround our drawings. Sometimes the drawing was on a piece of paper and the frame was on separate paper, so we did some creative problem solving for that part.

We emphasized spooky vs creepy as our goal.

Those difficult to achieve easily created white eyes were not so easily created even though it seemed like they should be. Time to experiment!

Our papers were gray. Despite researching, I couldn’t tell how everyone else was getting that gorgeous white pop in the eyes. So I experimented with a white crayon, a white oil pastel, a white chalk pastel, and painting it white with tempera paint. Overall, the white paint was the best choice, so that’s what we used.


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