Handwritten Portraits

Instructions for Handwritten Portraits

  1. Student artists should print the Handwritten Portrait Interview Sheet.
  2. Learners begin by choosing a subject to photograph. They should ask the subject to complete the interview using a pen on a blank sheet of unruled white paper
  3. The subject should be photographed using dramatic lighting on a very dark background cloth. The photograph should be:

a. intimate and close up
b. well planned for composition
c. arranged vertically
d. a limited-color or monochromatic (BW) color scheme
e. simply arranged
f. in focus.

  1. Scan or photograph the subject’s handwritten words.
  2. In Photoshop, combine the words by selectively cutting and pasting in such a way as to overlap and appear to be handwritten upon the skin of the face and neck. Arrange the words to best fit your composition – remember that skin, hair, and teeth are not skin, so words should not appear in those areas. Learners may need to use the Levels feature to make the “white” of the scanned paper truly white.
  3. Using the Photoshop “Layers” feature, change the effect of the pasted words from “Normal” to “Multiply” to create a seamless appearance as you join multiple images together.
  4. Remember that what we are doing is intentional and that the portrait we create becomes much more meaningful through the introduction of the sitter’s personal words and phrases.
  5. To submit, the final image should be composed in an 11 x 14″ vertical motif at 300 ppi resolution. Do NOT stretch or squeeze your image to fit the space! Plan it to fit from the start! The color mode should be RGB and the file format should be .jpg, saved at maximum quality.
  6. Write a 150+ word personal reflection about your image that addresses the four points of art criticism (Description, Analysis, Interpretation, Judgment.) Print out and place into the learner’s Photography file folder.

Interview Questions

Have the respondent complete this interview in his/her own handwriting on a white unruled sheet of paper:

  1. What is your full name?
  2. In a sentence, describe your job (or the career you’d like to pursue.)
  3. In two or three sentences, describe your family.
  4. List your five favorite things.
  5. What is your favorite color? Why?
  6. What word do you hate? Why?
  7. If you weren’t a (your profession), what would you most like to be? OR: If you didn’t live here, where would you most like to call home?
  8. What is your favorite movie or song? What do you like about it?
  9. From all of history, who would you most like to meet and have dinner with?
  10. Make a small “doodle” drawing of the first thing that comes to mind.
  11. What is your favorite leisure time activity? Why?
  12. Describe something you dislike doing.

You may also add or modify these questions as necessary.


Early finishers. If students finish a high-quality, purposeful image early, they may submit a second Handwritten Portrait for up to 50 points extra credit. Early finishers should select one of the following for extra credit and focus upon that sitter’s unique story and characteristics:

  • An adult leader
  • A military veteran
  • An educator
  • A healthcare professional
  • A musician
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