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Henry Taylor: Heroes


In this lesson, you will draw a portrait of someone you admire, using pose, setting, and details to show why they are important. You will find connections between your own process and the artwork of Henry Taylor. 

Grade Level



Inspired by the work of Henry Taylor.

Materials and Tools

  • A pencil or other drawing tool
  • Paper
  • Optional: eraser


Close Looking: Henry Taylor

How can we make a portrait of someone we admire? 

Let’s look at a painting by Henry Taylor for inspiration. 

Henry Taylor, See Alice Jump, 2011, Oil on canvas

What do you notice about the person in this painting? 
What are they doing? What kind of action do you notice? 
What do you notice about the setting where this person is?What other details do you notice? 

This is a painting of Alice Coachman (1923-2014). During the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, the track and field athlete set a record in the high jump at the age of twenty-four. She was the first Black woman from any country to win a gold medal. 

Talking about his paintings of icons and legends, like this one, Henry Taylor said, “Sometimes you want to put positive things out there.” What do you think he meant by that? 

Planning Our Drawings 

Who is an important person to you?  
How can you let other people know why this person is important? 

  • What action could you use to show what this person does? 
  • What setting will you choose to show this person? 
  • What other details (expression, clothes, objects) will you add? 

Drawing our Heroes  

Drawing the Body in Action: 

  • To draw the figure, you can think of most parts of the body as ovals or rectangles.  
  • Try making the action you’re thinking of with your own body. Where does the body bend (neck, elbow, hips, knees, feet)? 
  • Lightly draw the shapes, thinking about the relative sizes of each. You can also add clothing as you draw the figure. 

Drawing the Setting: 

  • Is the setting you chose inside or outside? Will you depict buildings or nature, will there be furniture and other objects? How can you use lines and shapes to show us what kind of place this is? 
  • Think about the size of the setting in relationship to the size of the person you’ve drawn. 

Adding Details: 

  • What details will tell us more about why this person is important?  
  • Do they wear something that tells us what they do? Is there an object that they use?  
  • What kind of facial expression will tell us more about them? 
  • Think about the lines and shapes of the details you will add. Draw lightly so you can change anything as you go. 


Look at your drawing. 

  • Who did you choose to draw? 
  • How did you show what makes this person important?
  • What kind of action did you draw? 
  • What setting did you choose? 
  • What other details did you add? 


Inspired by the Work of Henry Taylor
Written by Andrea Burgay, Associate Director

Lesson Development
Julie Applebaum, Senior Director

Studio in a School NYC
Hasna Muhammad, Ed.D., Chair, Board of Directors, Studio in a School Association
Alison Scott-Williams, President, Studio in a School NYC

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