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'Opie Portraiture'



Julian Opie, born in 1958, is a contemporary British artist and designer. In 2000 he was commissioned to create portraits of the four members of Blur, a popular band of the 'Britpop' era in the mid 1990s. These were to appear on the 'Best of Blur' album release. The original artwork is displayed in The National Portrait Gallery in London.

Opie's distinctive work is, in some respects, a development of the minimalist style of Patrick Caulfield (1936 - 2005). He eliminates much detail in his portraits: Eyes are represented with simply a black (sometimes blue) circle the size of the iris. Noses are merely a couple of elipses for the nostrils, or a single curved line for the tip (depending on the angle of the face). Mouths are always closed, with a line indicating the gap between the lips, and a shorter one for beneath the bottom lip. Block colour is used to fill in the outlined shapes of the hair, face, neck and clothes. Sometimes tonal detail is displayed using lighter or darker 'islands'. The lines in general are black and thick. The surprising result of this process of simplification is an often instantly recognisable image of the person depicted.

Pupils of all ages have really enjoyed creating their own Opie style portraits. The exercise enables them to learn about linear pattern, complementary colour and composition. They have the opportunity to develop their skills in mark making and electronic image editing.

Below is a sample of the many many portraits that have been produced by classes ranging from Year 7 to Year 12 at Chaucer Technology School: