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Family Workshop: Family Portrait
Teacher(s): You!
April 23 - June 01, 2020
Missoula Art Museum - Spacer

Artist: Donna Loos, featured in the exhibition Love Letters to the Collection

Artwork: Family Watch

Donna Loos (Little Shell, 1931-2018), Family Watch, acrylic on canvas, 2001, 43.75 x 63.5.” MAM Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, donated by the artist, 2018.14, copyright the artist.

Process: During her solo exhibition at MAM in 2009-2010, Donna Loos described her work from the Silhouette Series: "I tried to keep a blank mind and to paint unconsciously or subconsciously, or rather, to paint the negative space around a shape. I left the shape dark and then studied the composition for a while, looking for shapes as I would look for shapes in a summer cloud. Later I understood that I had painted my autobiography."

Materials: Chalk, water, paintbrush, yourself

Age range: The whole family!


  1. The artist called her silhouette series autobiographical. An autobiography is an account of your own life. What people or objects are a part of your autobiography? Grab a family member, a special toy, your favorite books, or anything else that you feel is important to describing part of your life story. Once you have decided what you want to include, take your materials (or family members!) outside to the sidewalk.
  2. Arrange your materials on the sidewalk. You can have everything facing the same direction, like Donna Loos’ silhouetted figures, or you can choose your own arrangement.
  3. Use chalk or a paintbrush and water to trace outlines of your family or objects.
  4. Fill in your silhouette autobiography with more chalk, water, or anything else you might find outside, likes leaves, grass, and sticks! Consider how you will create a contrast between the outlines of your silhouettes and the area surrounding them. Donna Loos uses color to contrast the figures in her painting, but you can also create contrast by incorporating different materials.
  5. When you are finished, give your piece a title. What would you title your own autobiography?

Process photo:

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