Life-size Self Portrait: Art Helps Kids to Express and Explore

by Rashmie Jaaju on July 25, 2011 · 21 comments

in Art & Craft

Making a self-portrait is a beautiful way for kids to express themselves.

It helps them explore who they are, what they would like to become; what are their likes and dislikes, fears and passions; what makes them laugh and cry.

It helps them open up and connect with themselves. 

Pari often makes her own picture and likes to talk about it.

Last week, I wanted her to try making her self-portrait but on a large scale. That is – a life-size self-portrait.

I glued up four sheets of ivory paper to make a giant size canvas. If you have those Butcher paper rolls like the ones available in craft stores (online and offline) in U.S., it becomes easy. In India, you can try your luck in local newspaper printing houses where they often have spare rolls that they may be willing to part with. I am going to try my luck sometime soon. 

So, we laid the canvas on the floor. Pari lied down while I drew the outline with a marker pen. I had her spread her legs and arms outward but you can do this any which way. A dancing pose may be great if your kiddo loves dancing.

Once the outline was done, the canvas was all hers.

To begin with, I gave her a mirror so she could observe her features, skin colour, hair texture and colour etc.  

I asked her to notice –

  • the placement of eyes on the face – how they are just below our forehead.
  • how the nose stands between the eyes
  • how the ears protrude on both sides and start at the level of the eyes.
  • Together we observed other parts – neck, shoulders, torso etc.

She went on to draw her eyes, ears, nose, lips.

When it came to dressing up, she discussed a few themes and ideas. 

  • Solid colours or designs
  • Animal figures or flowers
  • Her own name or some other text? 

Somewhere during our discussion, we broached the topic of India's Independence day, which is round the corner (August 15). And voila – she had an idea. She knew she wanted to paint her T-Shirt like India's flag – Saffron, White and Green. Great! So, her self-portraiture went on to become Independence Day Art/Craft project, which we have done every year until now.

Now was the turn to design the skirt. She had taken a shot at sketching it but wanted my help to draw the flares. Once I drew the flares, she coloured them in multi hues. Doesn't it look so very flamboyant and happy! Looks like the Pari in the picture will start dancing around in swirls!

The expression of self also came through words when she painted the words – "I love India"!

Finally, she highlighted the facial features and painted the skin and hair

Her friend, Sama, chipped in, in between, which was helpful because having two or more people work on a massive project like this keeps the excitement level high and is not strenuous for a kid.

Up till now, it was all about her own picture. But, she was not happy with all the white space around it. She wanted to add elements in the background. In between working on her portrait, she started off adding some blades of grass underneath and left it midway. But, she was very sure she had lot of work to do in the white space.

At this point, I had her wrap it up for the day and do the remaining part the next day.

The next day, before she set out to paint the background, I asked her questions such as:

  • What is the kind of place she likes to be in?
  • what does she like looking at in the sky?
  • does she like a sunny day or a rainy day?

These questions prompted her to paint flowers and grass below her feet and add rainbow, clouds and rain – in the sky.

It turned out to be a stunner of a picture and she was very very happy with what she had made. She kept raving that the "picture looks more beautiful than the real me"! "Look at her lips – they are so pink. Mine are not so pink."

Well, girls will be girls. For them – pink lips is the preeminent symbol of beauty and they so aspire for it…! 

We talked about her picture, her choice of colours, the background elements

I asked her if she noticed that she had forgotten to add eye lashes and eye brows to her eyes in the portrait. At this she was surprised that she had missed those details. I told her that an eminent artist called Leonardo da Vinci had also made a portrait (not self) named Monalisa that does not 'seem' to have eyebrows. May be the great artist forgot, too!

I opened up the book about the Louvre museum (Paris) and its collection of art and showed her the picture of Monalisa. We also read up to clear the doubt about whether Monalisa has eyebrows or not. All this was interesting for her and so informative for me! It turned out that Monalisa does have eyebrows after all, albeit just a singe hair!

I have put up her portrait in my room – on the wall facing my desk! Peering at it in between writing gives me so much inner joy!

I am very sure we are going to do many more life-size portraits. The mere size and massiveness of the project gets our adrenalin flowing. And the scope for expression of self is so enriching.

Have you done life-size self-portraits with your kids?

If so, I would love to hear more ideas. What else could have I added to make this experience more enriching for her?

Please go ahead and share… :)