Up Close with Chuck Close

Explore how visuals contain both “parts” and “whole” and how visual elements like “value” contribute to the overall artwork in this recreation of a self-portrait by Chuck Close.

  • 1.

    American artist Chuck Close is well-known for his Photorealistic, large-scale portraits. Using a grid technique, Close is able to paint enlarged copies of portraits square by square. View some of Chuck Close’s work with the students. Discuss how each square is part of the overall portrait yet stands alone as an interesting design of colors, shapes, and lines.

  • 2.

    Explore this technique with the class. Provide students with 2 photocopies of a portrait or image to enlarge. Instruct students to draw a grid on one of the photocopies. Save the second photocopy for display at completion of the project.

  • 3.

    Measure carefully using a ruler to be sure the squares on the grid are equal in size. Along the bottom and top edges of the photocopy, mark out every ¼ inch (or ½ cm). Repeat these measurements along the left and right sides of the photocopy.

  • 4.

    Using the ruler to create a straight line, connect the marks on the top to the marks on the bottom, and connect the marks on the left straight across to the marks on the right. Each student should have a grid covering his or her entire photocopy.

  • 5.

    To enlarge the image, students must make the same grid on a larger scale. Count the number of squares along the top of the grid on the photocopy. On a sheet of black construction paper, make the same number of marks along the top of the paper, but draw each mark ½ inch (or 1 cm) apart. Repeat along the bottom edge of the construction paper. Using the ruler to make straight lines, connect the marks at the top of the paper to the marks at the bottom.

  • 6.

    Count the number of squares along the left side of the photocopy. Make the same number of marks along the left side of the construction paper, drawing each mark ½ inch (or 1 cm) apart. Repeat on the right side. Using the ruler to make straight lines, connect the marks on the left side to the marks on the right. Each student should have a grid on the black construction paper that contains the same number of squares as the grid on the photocopy.

  • 7.

    Invite students to study the individual squares of the photocopy. Are some squares darker than others? Notice the different values in each square. Discuss colors that have similar values.

  • 8.

    Students will copy the image in the photocopy onto the black construction paper by drawing each square one at a time. Use Crayola® Construction Paper Crayons to create a bold, colorful work of art! Instruct students to match up the values in each square with the Crayon colors they select. Tip: Advise students to cross out each square on their photocopies as they are drawn to easily keep track of remaining squares.

  • 9.

    Encourage students to step back from their drawings now and then to view the whole picture. Do they see the squares forming the image? Are the values in their drawings consistent with those in the photocopy?

  • 10.

    When completed, students can neatly trim excess paper. Mount the drawing along with unmarked photocopy on a large sheet of paper or poster board using Crayola® No-Run School Glue.


  • MATH: Draw and identify lines and angles, and classify shapes by properties of their lines and angles.
  • MATH: Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area, and volume.
  • MATH: Draw, construct and describe geometrical figures and describe the relationships between them.
  • VA: Demonstrate openness in trying new ideas, methods and directions in making art and design.
  • VA: Demonstrate persistence in developing an artwork over time.


  • For a quick version of this lesson, assign each student a section of an image rather than a whole photograph. Combine all students’ drawings together to create a large collaboration piece!
  • Discuss how colors define mood. View several portraits painted by Chuck Close. What colors are strongest in the paintings? What mood is conveyed by those colors? How can changing the colors suggest a different mood? Instruct students to draw monochromatic self-portraits that reflect a specific mood.
  • Experiment with printmaking! Apply paint to the circles of recycled bubble wrap to create an abstract design. Remind students to be aware of the values of the paint colors they use and how that will impact the image. Flip the painted bubble wrap over and press gently onto a blank sheet of paper to transfer the image. Repeat to create multiple prints, or wash the bubble wrap with water to start a new painting!