When other non-art students posed in front of it for a picture, art teacher Paul Ford knew the Oprah Winfrey portrait at Carson High School had hit success.
"It's exciting to see that happen," he said. "It means it's become part of who we are as teachers and students."
The Winfrey portrait, made as a group project by some 45 of his Art III students last fall, flanks the side of a column near the student store in Senator Square. Ford assigned the project so students would learn how to use colored pencils and familiarize themselves with the finer points of human anatomy and portraiture.
"The color was fun," said art student Chelsea Owen-Self, a 17-year-old junior. "It looks really cool, I think."
The theme of the grid portrait was "An American Icon." The first step students had to work through was finding someone who met the description.
"They talked about Marilyn Monroe and some contemporary pop figures," Ford said. "They wanted to come up with someone who did lots of things for people, and Oprah seemed to be the perfect icon."
Students found a picture of Winfrey on the cover of one of her "O" magazines then Ford drew a grid over her face. Using high-quality colored pencils, students replicated one square from the grid.
"We do a different mural project each year," Ford said, "But the grid is an ancient technique used to develop murals, buildings and cities. Dating back into art history, it's been used since the time of the Egyptians."
When they put their various pieces together, students were pleased with the outcome.
Owen-Self worked on the part of Winfrey's face, featuring some of her hair. Richard Reardon, a 16-year-old junior, worked on her hair and captured some of the text from the magazine cover. Seventeen-year-old Kelsey Sweet, a senior, drew Winfrey's right eyebrow and a portion of the television celebrity's forehead.
"The magic of it was seeing all the different styles come together," she said. 'I don't think any of us thought it would turn out this well. I think we were surprised."
Students completed the project within three to four weeks. Five layers of acrylic media protect Winfrey's image.
Now the class is writing a letter to Winfrey to let her know of their project.
"I think the students did a wonderful job," Ford said. "Maybe we'll even get a letter back from her. That would be great."
Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.