These self portraits for kids are a sweet and colorful introduction to what a self portrait really is. A few guided drawing tips along with a bright, beautiful tissue paper background makes this art lesson a winner for any age.
But people are hard to draw….
People are hard to draw, there is no getting around it. Unless you’re a kid and then- bring it on. Little kids, especially, tend to approach drawing with the same excited unabashed curiosity they approach the rest of life. And it shows. Portraits drawn by little hands are some of the sweetest drawings, really reflecting the person. They may not be realistic but they shine with personality. As a parent these are the pieces of artwork I want to keep.
As an adult we know that the human face is one of the hardest things to capture in realistic fashion. Most little kids haven’t thought of this yet. For younger elementary students drawing is still fun whether their subject is accurately represented or not. Don’t let your own inhibitions about being “good” at portraiture stop you from teaching this lesson or pass them along to your students. You’re going to be giving a few tips to kids here to help their childlike portraits not teaching a master figure drawing class. Keep it light, keep it fun, and let the portraits be what they are- kid’s original artwork!
We started our portraits by making a super colorful tissue paper bleed. Use art tissue paper (not the kind from the gift wrap aisle) and paint your paper with water. The color will transfer from the tissue paper to the white paper. When dry the tissue paper falls right off leaving behind beautiful, bright traces of color.
This method provides an interesting backdrop form line drawing without the bumps that might slow down a young artist had we collaged the tissue paper on. For a more complete breakdown of the tissue paper painting process check out this post. It’s simple and easy and I use this process for lots of art beginnings.
Self portraits for kids how to…..
This is not a portraiture class or a college figuring drawing class. Kids portraits reflect personality in an uncanny way and we don’t want that spontaneity to go away. The thought here is to give them just a few tips about proportion and placement. Some kids will follow them and apply them to their artwork immediately. Some kids will not and that’s okay. Introduce the ideas and encourage kids to try them but know that they are the artist. If they don’t use the information they will still absorb it and use the concepts when they are ready.
Step one, drawing the head…..
I like starting this project with Sharpie markers, not pencils. I know some mamas and teachers cringe at the thought of giving their little people permanent markers. Try it. Introduce them as special and grown up art supplies to be used with care. Obviously they are not erasable so it takes away the stress of considering each mark, erasing it, and starting again. Start drawing and keep drawing.
For simplicity’s sake I find it easiest to refer to the shape of the head as an oval, even thought that’s not 100% accurate. An oval is more accurate than a perfect circle. Start with a large oval that almost fills the page. Consider that the neck comes down from the oval head. Make two straight-ish lines for the neck that connect to a horizontal line that makes up the shoulders.
Placement is everything…..
After the kids have drawn their oval for the head shape move on to the eyes. Kids tend to place eyes at the top of the head shape when in reality they are about half way down the head. Moving the eyes down to their proper place makes a portrait go from alien to human…voila! For older kids you might have them sketch a super light pencil guideline at that half way point. For these young artists we just dove right in with the Sharpie.
Ask kids to use their fingers to measure the width of their eye with their fingers. Then compare that finger measurement to the space between their eyes. Surprise! The width between the eyes is the about the same as the width of the eye.
Discuss how the eye is a football shape with a smaller circle inside of it. How the nose starts at the inside corner of the eye and ends about halfway between the eye and the chin.
Ask kiddos the different shapes their mouths might make depending on their mood and expression. This is silly and fun and will be reflected in their drawings. Art, even portraits, should be fun!