Activity: Self Portrait
- Black construction paper, chalk pastels
- 1 hour
- Art & design
By Molly O’Shea
Here’s a self-portrait activity suitable for many ages. Explain to your kids or students that art is not always about faithfully reproducing what you see, but rather adding your own creative interpretation to what you see. Through this directed lesson, kids will learn how to create a colorful, stylized version of themselves.
We will divide our portrait into different segments, coloring each segment a different color.
- With black paper positioned vertically, instruct the kids to draw a large infinity symbol toward the top half of the page. Younger kids will find it easier to turn the page 90 degrees and draw a large, skinny number 8 on the right half of the sheet.
- With your pencil at the center of the 8, draw a line down towards the bottom-left corner of the page.
- With your pencil at the left edge of the 8, draw a line down towards the bottom-right corner of the page.
- With your pencil at the right edge of the 8, draw a link down towards the bottom-left corner of the page, but stop when it meets another line.
- Draw a half circle on top of your 8, starting at the left edge and ending at the right edge of the 8.
- Draw two circles inside each side of the 8 for the eyes, with a smaller circle inside a larger circle.
- To make the nose, instruct the kids to draw a half heart off the line that divides the face. Some kids called it a “sleigh.”
- To make the mouth, have the kids make the letter M (it can be curved or pointed). Then draw a half circle underneath the M, and finally draw a line through the middle.
- Now to make the hair. Instruct the kids to draw a line from the top of the head up to the edge of the page. This will be the part in the hair. From the middle of that line, they can draw a line around the head on each side to make their hair, extending the line all the way down to the shoulders for long hair, or cropping it to a length similar to their own hair. Some kids just drew a jagged line for spiky hair, which looks good as well.
- Finally, if there is enough room on the page outside of the hair have the kids draw a line or two to break up the expanse of space. This will make for more color breaks.
First—a word about using pastels. They can be messy, but the rich vibrant colors they produce are worth it! Teach the kids to hold their hand above the page while they are coloring so that they don’t drag their hand (or shirt) through the pastels and smudge them. If this happens, you can always go over it with more color. Also, if chalk debris builds up on their paper while they are coloring, they can simply lift the paper up and tap it to let the dust fall off onto a paper towel.
Have the kids color each section of their drawing a different color. Try to maintain a small black border between your colors and around your pencil lines (don’t let your colors touch).
Finally, as a finishing touch, have the kids trace over their original pencil lines with black chalk. This will make the shapes really stand out.
After 14 years of designing on the computer, it was volunteering as art docent in her son’s kindergarten classroom that made Molly realize how much she loved working with her hands. Her blog, Love the Everyday, is dedicated to turning everyday objects into something beautiful. She has a degree in Studio Art from UCSD and lives with her husband and two sons in Encinitas, California.
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