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

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… :)

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cathy @ nurturestore July 25, 2011, 12:27 pm

    What a wonderful project. I think it’s great to try art on a large scale as so often we give our kids small pieces of paper – so much fun to go big! My girls loved trying some large scale landscapes too http://nurturestore.co.uk/large-scale-art-flowers

    • Rashmie Jaaju July 28, 2011, 4:26 am

      Yeah – big art can be really fun and inspiring. Thank you for sharing the large scale landscape painting done by your girls. It’s beautiful…

  • Anu July 25, 2011, 12:40 pm

    What a fantastic idea! I am surely going to do this with Samhith!!! Great job, Pari! Keep it up!

    • Rashmie Jaaju July 28, 2011, 4:28 am

      I am so glad you’re inspired to do the self-portrait with Samhith. I am sure he will have fun doing it.
      It’s so suited for the temperament of boys too… :)
      I would love to see what he makes. Please feel free to post a photo of it on my facebook page…

  • Phyllis at All Things Beautiful July 25, 2011, 1:27 pm

    This is a fantastic project! I love your guidance through it, and yet leaving all the decisions up to her. Wonderful!

    • Rashmie Jaaju July 28, 2011, 4:30 am

      Thank you, Phyllis for stopping by to share your comment. It was interesting and informative as well as she pondered over my questions and incorporated her own thoughts and answers into the painting…

  • Esther July 26, 2011, 3:58 am

    What a wonderful full size portrait! Its so wonderful that Pari colored her shirt in tri-color!

    • Rashmie Jaaju July 28, 2011, 4:31 am

      Thank you Esther :)
      Yeah, colouring it in Tri-colour made her all the more proud of her creation…

  • creativejewishmom/sara July 26, 2011, 5:40 am

    wonderful project! we did ours on cardboard and even sat them on the couch! thanks so much for sharing on Craft Schooling sunday!

    • Rashmie Jaaju July 28, 2011, 4:32 am

      I like the idea of doing self-portrait on cardboard so that you can place them where-ever you want. We must try this version too!

  • Stacy July 26, 2011, 5:49 am

    I love Pari more & more each time I see a bit of her art. I really love all the though you put in to this, I have tried life sized portraits before … when the kids were much younger, but I think we need to try them again! I can tell how much fun Pari had expressing herself and I’m betting my guys would too. So happy I was able to visit with you tonight :)

    • Rashmie Jaaju July 28, 2011, 4:34 am

      So glad you visited and shared your sweet comment. Yeah, all of us had so much fun. For me, it was interesting to watch her give colours and shapes to her thoughts about herself and her environment.
      Your kiddos will love doing it. I would be eager to see when you guys do this… :)

  • maggy, red ted art July 27, 2011, 4:22 pm

    What a beautiful painting and what an even more beautiful way to celebrate India Day! How wonderful indeed. I love every single step of it. You should be very proud!

    Thank you for linking to Kids Get Crafty!


    • Rashmie Jaaju July 28, 2011, 4:47 am

      Dear Maggy,
      So glad you like this activity. And yeah, painting it in the colours of the Indian flag was the high point for her.
      I am indeed proud :)

  • Laura@art4littlehands July 29, 2011, 2:56 pm

    i thought I had already commented on this, but I don’t see it. I love this idea. I need to do this every year with my kids. It would be fun to see how they grow and how their art of themselves grows each year. I think we will do this today. Thanks for the inspiration and thanks for sharing at my art party.

    • Rashmie Jaaju August 3, 2011, 5:41 am

      I would love to see how your three creative kiddos express themselves through self portrait.
      It’s all the more interesting to see different kids come up with varied interpretation. Isn’t it?

  • Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas July 31, 2011, 2:12 am

    Rashmie this is simply fabulous. Her portrait is so colorful and full of life much as I envision her from all your posts! :) I must do this with my girls it would be so fabulous to see how they see themselves. Thank you for sharing this idea on the Sunday Showcase – it is definitely something I will be trying with my girls (maybe during out All About Me theme – a perfect time!)

    Hope to see you again on this week’s Sunday Showcase!

    • Rashmie Jaaju August 3, 2011, 5:47 am

      Dear Bernadette,
      Yeah, the colours in our culture reflect in Pari’s art and activities… You are right :)
      You must try this life-size self portrait during your ‘All About Me’ theme. By the way – this theme sounds so interesting and relevant for kids. I’m inspired to ear-mark some time like this. We have something going on always pertaining to the ‘self’ but naming it like you have done will make it more enticing!

  • Chhavi August 8, 2011, 4:56 am

    Finally, got to see all the projects that I missed during this time. Really enjoyed seeing this one. It would have been so much fun had pari and vasavi been able to do this together. Actually, painting one another can be more fun than painting your own self. But this too is so much fun. Just adds so much expression to the way the child perceives herself. I think the long weekend around 15th August is a perfect occasion to experiment this one. Vasavi would love it:)

    • Rashmie Jaaju August 11, 2011, 9:06 am

      Dear Chhavi,
      Thank You for sharing your thoughts. Yeah, like we discussed the other day, it would have been wonderful if Pari and Vasavi could have done this together. But, never mind, we will make sure they get together soon to be able to do this and some more. I am sure they will be elated :)
      I would love to see what Vasavi makes when you guys delve into this, during the Aug 15 weekend. You could send me a photo too :)