Thursday, October 16, 2014

Self Portraits and Art Journal Page

Don't you just love self portraits……it's got to be one of my favourite lessons.

I'll show you how to do this one….

……..and how to do an awesome journal page using your practice copy from the first project.

So this variation of my self portrait lesson was done with grade 4.

We put a bit of a math spin on it, discussing fractions when drawing the proportions of the face.  We also did patterns for the background.


- we used 12"x12" hardboards for our backgrounds, you could use paper or cardboard
- acrylic paint
- good quality drawing paper
- mirrors
- pencil and white drawing erasers (Staedtler or triangular drafting erasers).  I have a class set that travels with me and I tell the kids don't use your pink erasers or the one on the end of your pencil.
- coloured pencils or pencil crayons
- fine sharpies
- printmaking shapes, I use cut up pool noodles and these foam blocks I got from the Dollar Store (circles, triangles, squares, etc.), recycled corks from wine bottles, little cups
- scissors and glue
- Mod Podge or Duraclear for sealing, optional


Self Portrait Board:

Now I do self portraits a lot so I have a full class set of mirrors. I got mine at the Dollar Store.  I added some hockey tape to any that did not seem too sturdy.  Kids can be a bit rough with them.

They are a worthwhile investment for any school as each class can do several portrait drawing projects throughout the year.

We start off doing a practice portrait using regular copier paper.  We go step by step as a class.

The hardest part is getting the kids to sketch lightly until they are ready to commit.

My directions for drawing a face can be found HERE and depending on the age of the students I'll also give them a handout or have large step by step pictures up on the board.

When the practice drawing is done I give them a piece of good quality drawing paper.

For this variation I had them do the face shape, ears, neck and shoulders, and outline of the hair.

They then used some flesh tone acrylic paint and painted in the face, ears, and neck.

I keep 3 main colours of skin tone premixed.  (light, medium, and dark).  The kids can usually find a good match but we can alter if we need too.

Let face dry.

While the face is drying paint the 12"x12" hardboard or background a solid colour.

Your face should be dry now.  Using a light hand with the pencil sketch in the rest of the proportions.

Add the eyes, nose and mouth.

When the features are drawn in pencil we added some white paint with a tiny brush for the eyeball.

Now add colour and shading with your coloured pencils.

Your background board will be dry now.  We added patterns to ours and I'll describe how we did this when we do the art journal page.

Cut out your portrait and glue on top of your background.

Art Journal Page:
This is a great project if your students are really self conscious about their drawings.  By painting it a different colour, almost like a fauvist portrait, it helps them loosen up a bit.  They won't expect it to be perfect.

Take your practice drawing.  This is one of my student's.

Go over the outline with a black sharpie.

Squeeze a little acrylic or tempera onto your palette.

Add water to make it inky.

Paint over your drawing.

Let dry.

Paint in the whites of the eyes.

Add detail and shading with your coloured pencils.

Paint a background colour on to your art journal page.

Now add some prints.  I'm using sequin waste paper, cut up pool noodles, corks, little cups, etc.

For the first project the Grade 4's chose 2 shapes and then made repeating patterns on their backgrounds.

While the paint is out do the opposite page so you have a background ready to go for next time.

I used the leftover blue paint as the main colour.

Add some stamps.

And then I added this ADMIT ONE ticket.

That's it, you just completed 2 great projects.

Take care everyone.


  1. Love this Gail! My with graders are using sketchbooks to record all of their lessons this year and this lesson will be great to implement.

    1. Thanks Patty. I'm trying to come up with more variations on my projects for the art journal. Teachers have been telling me that they get about 10 - 20 pages in and then are stumped. The art journals provided by the local school boards are 100 pages! :)