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Aztec Indian Portraits

School: Spearman High School

City/State: Spearman, TX

Grade(s): 9, 10, 11, 12

Format(s): Visual arts

Subject(s): Social Studies, Visual Arts

Project Overview

Art I-IV students at Spearman High School in Spearman, Texas created these colored pencil drawings as part of a co-curricular project in social studies and art.

A vibrant dance troupe, Grupo Azteca, performed for the art students and explained the symbolism of their music and dance. Students learned about the elaborate costumes and traditions of the Aztec Indians. Students took many photos of the performers while dancing to use a reference for their final drawing. After a series of lessons on the techniques of colored pencil, students created a 15" x 18" drawing of an Aztec dancer of their choice.

During this project, students mastered proper blending techniques with colored pencils, learning how to create an under layer and then carefully blending custom colors on top. Students learned how to capture skin tones in various lighting conditions using a mix of many different pencils. The intricate decorations of the costumes, such as the pheasant feathers and metallic trim, posed advanced drawing challenges for the students to solve. Students also had to show their understanding of human anatomy in order to draw foreshortened arms, hands or legs. This was the first time many of the students ever used oil-based colored pencils—but with proper sequencing, the results were astounding.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Shows stunning artwork done with colored pencils
  • Affirms and celebrates minority culture
  • Highlights a project that allows students’ skills to shine
  • Includes art lesson plan on using colored pencils

Relevant Resources

Additional Standards

  • Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Art, Level 1- Perception (A) (B)
  • Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Art, Level 1- Creative expression/performance (A) (B) (C)
  • Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Art, Level 1- Historic and cultural heritage (B)
  • Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Art, Level 1- Response/evaluation (A) (B)
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