CHS students take art assignment personally

Posted: June 2, 2011

By Julie Cole

Mahri Macfarlane in her re-creation of Norman Rockwell's painting, The Shiner. Photo by Fiona Graham.

Art students at Caronport High School are picturing themselves in some famous paintings.

Art 30 teacher Cheryl Crocker asked her students to reproduce a famous painting that they identified with – using themselves as the primary subjects.

“Students can pick someone in art history that looks like them or that they can change themselves into through makeup and costume,” Crocker said. “Students are given about three weeks to complete the project. This meant some late nights in the art room and working after class. Some students put many hours into the project.”

Mahri Macfarlane was one of those students. When she was considering which piece of art to re-create, Crocker showed her Norman Rockwell’s classic painting of The Shiner. Macfarlane was instantly taken by the piece.

“I thought it was a funny picture,” Macfarlane remembered. “I just honestly wanted to dress up as this little girl. I was planning my costume out. I just wanted to be that character.”

Dressing up like the character was the easiest part of the challenge. Macfarlane soon found out that duplicating the painting’s background into a life-sized rendition was a huge undertaking. Every detail had to be in the right proportion.

“I got one of my classmates to help me measure my body and measure how far it was to the wall (in the painting) and to other bits,” Macfarlane stated. “(I was) on a ladder for a couple of days getting the edges (painted).”

Crocker recalls the challenge Macfarlane faced with the enormity of her project.

“Mahri’s project took a lot of time because of the size of it,” she said. “It was practically the size of a mural. She had to work many hours to create the faces and details in the project.”

It’s the details that were most time consuming in this assignment. Macfarlane agonized over the female teacher pictured in her painting.

“I think I know her face like the back of my hand,” she laughed. “She was so difficult and I had to paint her over and over and over again because the coloring is so specific and her face – it didn’t look like it was very detailed, but the shading . . . was so much harder to do.”

After the students re-created the backdrops for their paintings and had their costumes assembled, they did a photo shoot so they could capture their project for their grade.

“I realized when I took (the photo) the first time that something was wrong with my sleeves,” Macfarlane stated. “They weren’t rolled up the way they should be in the picture. I was like, ‘Oh no! Can we take it again?’ So I just went back and got in (a time slot) where someone was late and they took (the photo) one more time.”

Macfarlane’s hard work and patience paid off. Her project received one of the highest marks in the class.

She says the assignment has given her an even greater appreciation for the Rockwell painting.

“I still love it,” she insisted. “I still think it’s funny which is pretty significant after looking at it for two weeks. (The project) took a lot of work, but it was worth it.”