Hilton Head Island High students create art out of pushpins

abredeson@islandpacket.comOctober 15, 2012 

Hilton Head Island High School students in Monique Dobbelaere's art class are shown around their pushpin portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inside the media center.

SARAH WELLIVER/STAFF PHOTO

Hilton Head Island High School art instructor Monique Dobbelaere was planning her curriculum over the summer when she came across the work of Eric Daigh.

Daigh, an American artist who lives in Michigan, is known for his unusual form of art, creating portraits out of pushpins. He takes a photo and breaks down the subject into thousands of pixels, then creates a map that tells him where all the pushpins go.

Red pushpins go in red squares, blue in blue and so forth. Up close, the pushpins look like pushpins, but further away they look like something completely different.

Inspired by French painters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, pushpin art employs a method called "optical mixing," in which small dots of various colors create an optical illusion.

Dobbelaere was looking for a way to get a variety of students, teachers and parents involved in an art project, and a pushpin portrait seemed perfect.

"The project had to be self-guided in order to work," Dobbelaere said. "And Eric Daigh's technique made sense."

The first step was creating a template in Adobe Photoshop. Then, she began collecting pushpins.

Once school started, Dobbelaere introduced the idea to all the students in the school. They watched a PowerPoint presentation and a video about pushpin art.

The person in the portrait was a mystery in the beginning, and part of the fun of the project was for participants to try to figure out who he was. Clues were displayed next to the project.

Over the next couple of weeks, students began separating the colored pushpins, spray painting the ones that weren't the right colors and beginning the first few rows of the portrait.

After Dobbelaere's art students got the project started, it was moved to the media center, where the rest of the school could participate. Over the past couple of months, people have added pushpins here and there as they passed by the project. Eventually all the pins -- 25,000 in all -- added up to a portrait of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"MLK as the subject was meant to be significant," Dobbelaere said. "The collaboration required to complete the project echoes him as a symbol of unity."

Senior Ross Dungan said he enjoyed working on the project.

"I think the final product looks really good," he said. "It's just a really different form of art. It just really attracts the eye."

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