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!