Originally Published The Nugget News May 10, 2016
Author Erin Borla

“It’s my favorite day of the year,” said fourth-grade teacher Clay Warburton, as he observed his class of students painting their abstract portraits all laid out across the floor of the elementary school commons.

Each of his fourth-graders worked on portraits throughout the last several weeks. Most drew themselves three or four times, some as many as seven, in different ways. The students started practicing the project on a smaller scale using a photograph and drawing portraits in different media.

They took the black-and-white photo and identified specific lines and features on their own face. Those features were then transitioned to large-scale outlines on heavy black paper approximately 3 feet by 3 feet. The outlines each student created made large areas perfect for filling in with bright colors of paint. Students were encouraged to use colors that were not realistic.

“We are trying to express ourselves,” said student Jake Beutler. “The pictures don’t look exactly like us, we want to mix it up. On mine, if you close your eyes, (then open them) then look at my picture, your eye is drawn to the lightest point – something I want to draw attention to.”

Some students chose colors because they liked the “cool” color palette; while others preferred simple colors like red, orange, blue and green, so they could blend them and create new colors.

“I love that they experiment with color,” said Warburton.

“Warm colors are my favorite,” says Brooke Blakelock. “I’m a warm-colored girl – I love wearing neon!”

Throughout the 2-hour process last Friday, a mix of upbeat music played in the background while the students worked independently on their own portrait.

Parent volunteers were on hand to assist as well. As they finished their painting they were allowed to help others with certain aspects of each piece.

“My favorite part of the project is blending (the colors),” says Teague Wessell. “I liked going from warm colors to cool colors on my head. I’ll probably paint again sometime in my life.”

Warburton himself is a painter, and his work in acrylic can be seen throughout town including Three Creeks Brewing Company and other locations.

The paintings the students do reflect the teacher’s signature style of bright colors on a dark background.

“This is a special time in their lives,” said Warburton. “I encourage them to enjoy the process and listen to their inner artist.”

The paintings will be hung from the ceiling of the commons at Sisters Elementary School beginning the week of May 2.

Sisters community members are encouraged to stop in and enjoy the pieces that have been created, but need to check in at the front office first.