Thursday, September 29, 2011

Holley Portraits

I did these Holley portraits a few years ago with my kids (before we had a classroom blog) and never took pictures of them. My fifth graders loathed the writing process and there were a LOT of groans and frustrated, blank faces during the project. Writing in Art? Oh the horror.

I recently dug this project back up because I needed an adaptive lesson to teach at a MagnetEd Conference this past weekend. I've also seen them popping up on Pinterest quite often and thought that maybe I should revisit the whole thing. So here ya go, I'm digging it back up.

I think one reason that this project is so difficult is because it's immensely personal. What do I write about? Give me some ideas. Are they thoughts or traits? What if someone laughs? Do I want someone to know THAT about ME? While teaching this at the conference this weekend I think I had only one person actually finish it. The rest of my participants were doing what I love most about conferences: adapting it to their grade level or coming up with different ideas with similar results.

Some of them?

  • Having students write personality traits around a picture frame with a photo of themselves in it.

  • Using your child's fingerprint and writing personal traits about them--a great gift for grandparents or a beautiful keepsake.

  • Giving students prompts for ideas (such as: I like, I adore, I am, I want to, I long for, I don't understand, I live for, I eat, My family is, etc.) This way, students as young as fifth grade can use the prompts from which to dive off.

I personally love the idea of using this for my own children. What a wonderful keepsake for yourself or a gift for grandparents (thanks, Tammy!)

There are a ton more examples of Holley portraits, as well as a history behind them which can be found here.

Good luck and happy thumbprinting!

*yes, for these I photocopied ALL of my students' thumbprints. I first enlarged them to 400% and then used that 400% copy and enlarged it 200% more. This is the perfect size for a 9x12 sheet of paper.


  1. I'm impressed. I started this lesson last year but after taking an hour to enlarge only 5 thumbprints that were turning into a blurry mess I called it quits. I'll have to go try the 400%, 400%, 200% and see if that works on our copier!

  2. I loved the results when I've done this! I did a micrographic portrait and also the thumb print and after all the hard work they turn out great!

  3. I've also tried a variation of this project with a Grade 6 class. Yes, enlarging all of them was indeed a pain. I agree about kids whining about anything to do with 'writing' in art class. I find it a particular problem with my high school classes- they ALWAYS say 'this is Art class, not English"- it's really difficult for them to see any sort of cross-subject connection and relevance. Drives me mental!

  4. Years later I can only remember one, an example made by a friend named Richard Holley. His response to the brief is one of the best pieces of graphic design.

  5. I am a very creative person and I love doing artistic things so that I can unleash my inner artist. I don't know if this has anything to do with the fact that im a Leo. I can get very easily irritated by the smallest thing ever but its just apart of me. My friends say that I am bossy because I have OCD. Since I have OCD, they call be bossy because when I ask them to do something in that time period, and they dont do it I have a problem and I get a little mad because I want them to do it know. Im also a person that if you make a promise I want you to keep it and if its a promise that has to do with me getting something, I am going to want it as soon as possible.