Michael Murphy Inspired 3D portraits featured image

Grade Level

9-10, 11-12


3 weeks, 1.5 hour class periods


Cardboard, cutting tools such as a Canary box cutting knife ( like this one), tempera black and white, large and medium size flat brushes, wood skewers (like these)


Tempera, Mixed media

Lesson Objectives

Lesson Objectives

For the student to:

● Become familiar with the artwork of artist Michael Murphy
● Students will discuss what Perceptual Art.
● Students will create a portrait of a famous person in the style of Perceptual Artist Michael Murphy.
● Students learn how to posterize in Photoshop to simplify the photos into value.
● Students will develop craftsmanship skills in cutting and construction in creating their 3D portraits.

Introductory Activity

Look at the slide show and videos on Michael Murphy and his work. Discuss Perceptual Art.

Lesson Process

  • Find a headshot photo of a famous person or president. You want it to have a large variety of highlights and shadows.
  • Open your image in Photoshop by right-clicking and “open in…
    1. Turn the photo black and white.
      1. Image> adjustments> black and white
      2. Click: Ctrl + Shift + U
      3. Ctrl + Shift + LCtrl + L will allow you to create more contrast
  • Posterize the photo to 5-7 levels (whichever looks best)
    1. Go to Image > adjustments > posterize
    2. Type in “5”, ”6”, or “7” or slide bar
    3. Filter-Filter Gallery-CUT OUT – Change the level # between 4-5Ctrl + Shift+ L to create more contrast.
  • Now print the picture tofit to page.”
  • Draw each value layer to scale, each time take away a value level going lightest to
  • Trace onto cardboard and cut it out.
  • Paint each Value level to match the value levels in your picture.
  • Attach each level to the next using cut kabob sticks.
  • Attach a steady base in between the levels (Placement is important! You don’t want to be able to see the base); you will want to put it on the floor and stand above it while attaching it to make sure it lines up.
  • Set it at eye level and ensure it lines up and is hidden.


3D, Michael Murphy, value, illusion, Perceptual Art


The Art of Michael Murphy Presentation and Guided Notes
Video Link
Video Link of The Making of Perceptual Shift

Author & Website/Blog

Nicole Diem

Supporting Images