Thursday, October 3, 2013

Self Portraits

I have been working with Grade 1 and 2 on self portraits.

Trying to get them to hit the landmarks, put features in roughly the right places, and to really look at the shapes of things.


- brown kraft paper
- gesso or white primer
- paint roller
- regular paper for draft drawing
- pencil and eraser
- re-positionable contact paper, optional
- tempera paint in skin tones
- crayons, pencil crayons
- disk tempera for hair, shirt, text
- glue
- fine sharpie


I have a set of mirrors that I give out and ask that they look closely at their features.  We use the mirrors as we draw.

We started doing a practice drawing. If I had more time I would of had them do a drawing with no instruction first, this helps to show progress.

On regular paper we start talking about the shape of the head.

We drew in pencil but I'm using a sharpie so you can see it.

We aim for an oval or egg shape.

We add the neck and shoulders.  I point out that the shoulders go straight out or angle down a little.  We don't want them shaped like hills,  makes it look like we are hunching up our shoulders.

We then find the centre of the face and make a dot.

Make a dotted line across the oval.

If you ask the kids what will be on this line they will say "the nose".  I ask them to look in the mirror again and then I get "oh, the eyes!".

We then draw a second dotted line halfway between our first line and the chin (nose line) and then a third line halfway between the second line and the chin (mouth line).

I talk to the kids about the eye shapes.  How we are going for a football shape and not a soccer ball.

Eye spacing can be difficult so we talk about how it's like drawing 3 eyes except we erase the middle one.

We can then put in that upper lid, just a sliver.  I ask the kids to look at their eyes (iris,pupil) to see if there is any white showing above them.

We then draw in the iris touching the top of the eye and add the pupil.  With older kids we add the reflection.

We talk about eyelashes.

We leave the eyebrows out for now.

On to the nose.  On the nose line in the section between where the eyes are spaced we add a little "c", add another on the their side but backwards, and then a little hill between the two.

You can then add some lines for the sides of the nose.  If you look at those side lines , they go up above the eyes and then arch into the eyebrows. (have students look in the mirror)

On the mouth line we put in the mouth.  We start with the little dip in the centre of the upper lip. We we then extend this, curving up if we want a smile, we do the bottom of the upper lip.

Add the lower lip, thinner and shorter than the upper lip.

Add the neckline of the shirt.

Add the ears.

Then add the hair.  I ask the kids to look in the mirror to see that hair comes down on the forehead even if their hair is short.

I took kraft paper and cut it into squares.  I placed them on the ground and using a paint roller with a handle rolled primer onto them.  I wanted it to looked quick so the brown shows on the edges.

It dries quickly.

After our practice drawing we repeated what we did on the primed paper.

With crayon we add colour to our eyes, lips, and eyebrows.

Because I had a lot of young Grade 1's, I cut eye shape out of contact paper and we covered the eyes.  If you place the paper on top of the eye you can see the pencil thru it and then you can trace out the shape.
Cut, peel and stick.

Mix up a skin tone using white liquid tempera.  Add a drop or two of red and some brown.

Paint in the face and neck.

Paint in the hair and shirt.

Peel off eye stickers when the face paint has dried.

I cut the letters for 'self' using the cricut.  I printed the text for portrait.  For the kids it was printed on paper I created that had faces all over it.  We painted our 'portrait' paper.

Glue into place.

That's it.


  1. Wonderful Gail! You have the best tutorials!

  2. Great Lesson and great finished artwork! Love the brown kraft paper. I've used brown paper grocery bags before too for that same look on paint projects.

  3. What fun! Your projects are always so creative. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  4. This is wonderful! You have presented your teaching method step-by-step, so easy for us to follow. Thanks! :D

  5. I love everything you do and so do the children... they always work. Fantastic tutorials and examples of work. Thank you, KR

  6. I am in awe of your beautiful work. Your ideas look fantastic and easy to follow. I think you`'ve just made my week (or maybe month!)
    I'm a Montreal art teacher to adults with special needs - THANK-YOU!

  7. So glad for this tutorial and demo. I really appreciate that you share this with this home school mom. I had my boys do this project with dry media as a page for their scrapbook. You can view my post here: