In this activity, you will explore drawing and painting a self-portrait.
- Oil pastels (or crayons)—brown, peach, and black
- Watercolor set
- Watercolor brush
- Water in deli container
- Watercolor (or regular) paper
- Mirror (optional)
What is a self-portrait?
A self-portrait is an artwork that an artist makes about themselves.
You can start your self-portrait, by drawing the shapes of your face with an oil pastel or crayon. You’ll add color later.
You can look in a mirror before you draw your self-portrait. Or keep a mirror nearby so that you can look at yourself as you work.
First, let’s draw the biggest shape, the shape of the head.
Feel the shape of your head with your hands. What shape is it? It might feel like an oval. It could be round or long.
The top of your head, where your forehead is, is wider than the bottom where your chin is.
You can draw two lines below your head to show your neck.
Next let’s draw the eyes. Gently feel around them. What shape are your eyes? They are like ovals that are pointy at each end.
Leave some space for your forehead, then draw your eyes. Inside your eyes, is a little circle, the pupil. Draw that too.
Above your eyes are eyebrows. These are curved ovals.
In the middle of your eyes is the nose. Feel the shape. Noses are thin at the top and wide at the bottom, kind of like a triangle with curves on both sides.
The top of your nose starts right between your eyes. Draw the nose next.
Now, let’s add the mouth. Feel the shape. It’s like a long oval with pointed sides.
If you open your mouth, it makes a different shape—it makes a big circle! What kind of feeling does that show? You look surprised.
What if you close your mouth in a straight line? What feeling does this show?
You can draw your mouth to show different feelings. What feeling will you show?
Next, let’s add to the outside of the face. What shape are your ears? Feel and see. They are like a half-circle.
What is on top of our heads? You can use all different kinds of lines or shapes to draw different kinds of hair. I wonder how you will draw your hair.
Artists often add special details to their self-portraits to show more about themselves. These could be jewelry, eyelashes, teeth, or anything else you notice.
What special details will you add?
You can use watercolors to finish your self-portrait! You can also use any another art material to add color.
What color will you use for your face? You can use a color like your actual skin, or you can choose a different color that you like.
Get a little water and wiggle, wiggle, wiggle in the brush to wake up your watercolors.
Then add some color to fill in the face. What happens when you go over the oil pastel lines? They push away the paint! They resist the watercolor.
You can choose another color to paint the background, the area around you in your self-portrait.
What shapes did you use to draw the different parts of your face?
What special details did you add?
What colors did you use for your self-portrait?
Share your self-portrait with someone and tell them about the choices you made.
All About Us
Written by Andrea Burgay, Associate Director
Julie Applebaum, Senior Director
Sassy Kohlmeyer, Director of Early Childhood Programs
Studio in a School NYC
Hasna Muhammad, Ed.D., Chair, Board of Directors, Studio in a School Association
Alison Scott-Williams, President, Studio in a School NYC
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