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The portrait assignment
A self-portrait in oil is one of the last assignments of FS 102, Painting 1: Foundations, a semester-long studio art class that satisfies the University’s core curriculum fine arts requirement. By this point in the term, says Alston Conley, an adjunct associate professor of fine arts who teaches one of the course’s five sections, the faculty has introduced the “basic vocabulary of art”—techniques of light and shadow, brush strokes, perspective, and color theory. The students have completed eight or nine works (primarily still lifes) in a variety of styles, “from realistic observation to impressionist and expressionist.” For the self-portrait, they are free to choose a style.
Working from photographs, each student first produces a small study, then scales up the work to create a finished portrait, 22 x 30 inches or slightly smaller. The undertaking is “strictly right brain,” Conley says, adding, “For a lot of [the students] that’s outside the strengths that got them to this University.” The class demographic spans freshmen to seniors and a range of majors from accounting to international studies, representing all four undergraduate schools. BCM offers a slideshow gallery of self-portraits from the past year.