Melissa Cooke - Visual Artist

Objectives: Melissa Cooke is a visual artist who specializes in large, hyper-realistic portraits using powdered graphite. To help give her enough detailed information for her drawings, she doesn’t just use one photo from one angle, but many photos from various angles. This allows her to see the image in greater detail (both dark and light). This is especially useful when doing self portraits, as it allows you to “see yourself differently”. In this activity, you will also be using graphite pencils, erasers, and photos to draw a self portrait.

Tools/Resources: MN Original video clip, camera (or device that takes photos), photo printer, art paper (for drawing), graphite pencils, eraser, photo editing app.


  1. Watch the segment and discuss:

    a. Why do you think it’s important to take a photo of a person from various angles?

    b. What does “hyper-realism” mean? How does this art form differ from other artforms you have seen?

    c. Cooke says in the episode that when drawing a self portrait, you can “see yourself differently”. What do you think she means by that?

  2. Using a camera or photo-taking device (phone, tablet) and a partner, take multiple pictures of yourself from various angles (but do not move!). Have your partner help you with this by taking the pictures for you, but you decide what position you want to be in for your drawing. Try to get at least 6 different photos
  3. Using a photo editing app, increase the visibility of the photo and change it to black and white. If necessary, zoom in or out of pictures to get a greater idea of detail
  4. Using the graphite pencils and erasers, try to draw yourself as realistically as possible. Concentrate on the light and dark and the overall effect it has in the photo.
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