Portfolio Project for Middle School — Graffiti Names

I chose to make my sam­ple using my own name, so no one could com­plain about their name being too long!
This year, my pre­vi­ously K-6 ele­men­tary school has added a mid­dle school.  Now Art has become an elec­tive class for 6th and 7th graders (an 8th grade will be added next year).  This means lots of new les­son plans geared to older kids!  I wanted to give my mid­dle school­ers a fun way to dec­o­rate their port­fo­lios and get their names on them at the same time (if you haven’t made your port­fo­lios yet, click here for direc­tions).  And most of all, I wanted a les­son that would be engag­ing for this age group.… emerg­ing teenagers!  So, I decided to teach them Graf­fiti Let­ter­ing!

We began with a very seri­ous dis­cus­sion about the dif­fer­ence between art and van­dal­ism.… after all, I want to still have a job next week!  We decided that while much graf­fiti art may be very skill­fully done, if it’s done with­out per­mis­sion, it’s van­dal­ism, and van­dal­ism is wrong.  I made my stu­dents all agree that if I taught them how to do this style of let­ter­ing, they would never mis­use it by par­tic­i­pat­ing in van­dal­ism.  So there’s my disclaimer!!

I always like to tie in a lit­tle art his­tory when­ever pos­si­ble.  So, for this les­son I showed my stu­dents the work of Pop Art painter Roy Licht­en­stein.  His paint­ing “Whaam!” is a good exam­ple of the use of graffiti-style lettering.

I found sev­eral exam­ples of names writ­ten in graf­fiti style on the inter­net, so I printed them out and put them up for more inspi­ra­tion.  I was care­ful to show them only exam­ples that were not obvi­ously van­dal­ism!  We talked about the fea­tures that most of them had in com­mon.… large over­lap­ping let­ters, bold out­lines and bright col­ors.  Then stu­dents fol­lowed the steps below to write their own names in graf­fiti let­ter­ing on the front of their port­fo­lios:

Graffiti-Style Names

1. With a pen­cil, write your name using large “stick let­ters”, spaced close together.  I like to start by plac­ing the mid­dle letter(s) in the cen­ter and then work out­ward in both direc­tions.  Press lightly with your pen­cil and plan on doing a fair amount of eras­ing to get every­thing just the way you want it!

2. Now, make out­lines around your stick let­ters.  Each let­ter should be over­lapped by the let­ter to the left of it.

3. Use a black chisel tip marker to trace over your out­lines.  Try to loosen up and draw with your whole arm for a more fluid look.  Draw­ing with con­fi­dence and a lit­tle flair is more impor­tant than stay­ing exactly on the lines.

4. Next, add shad­ows to make your let­ters look 3D.  Remem­ber to be con­sis­tent with where you place your shad­ows on each let­ter.  Choose one side, left or right, and either the top or bot­tom of your let­ters for the shad­ows.  I sug­gested to my stu­dents that they place their shad­ows on the bot­tom and the left side of each let­ter, just to sim­plify explain­ing it to the whole class at once!  Draw your shad­ows with pen­cil first and then fill them in with your chisel tip marker.

5. Erase all your pen­cil lines.  I like to use the side edge of  a Magic Rub eraser, to cover a large area quickly.

6. Use your chisel tip marker to draw an “echo line” around the entire shape that your name makes.  Or you can draw a larger cloud shape around the shape of your name.  Then  con­tinue adding more and more echo lines, or just fill in the back­ground area with color.

7. Now use a black “F” Sharpie to touch up the edges and cor­ners of your let­ters, if needed.

8. Finally, use col­ored mark­ers to fill in your let­ters.  Be cre­ative!  Make the lower half of your let­ters one color and the upper half another color.  Or, leave some white in the cen­ter of each let­ter to look like a “reflec­tion”.  I’ll add some stu­dent exam­ples to this post as soon as we get some finished!

I need to give let­ter grades to my mid­dle school stu­dents for Art this year, in addi­tion to the usual behav­ior grade they got in ele­men­tary school.  To do this, I’ll be grad­ing each project with a point sys­tem using a rubric.  This project will be worth 12 points, 3 points each for: (1)large over­lap­ping let­ters, (2)placement of shad­ows, (3)use of color, and (4)craftsmanship.  I’ll be explain­ing my grad­ing sys­tem in a future post, com­ing soon!


3 Responses to Portfolio Project for Middle School — Graffiti Names

  1. Janice Skivington September 4, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    I have to teach an elec­tive art class for 6th grade through 10th this year and your new idea for “graf­fiti” style let­ter­ing has me excited. And when I get excited-then the kids should be excited too! Thanks.
    Also I have to give them let­ter grades and that is so hard for me. I will be watch­ing for your post on a rubric that will be so helpful.

  2. Sherry Trowbridge May 4, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    Hi, from one Mrs. Trow­bridge (who teach­ers grade 7) to another teacher named Mrs. Trow­brige… LOL

    • Cheryl Trowbridge May 4, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

      Hi Sherry! Wow — what are the chances?! Thanks for say­ing hello!

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