A Journey Towards Self: Self-Portraits

By Amber Norman

“The tool of every self portrait is the mirror. You see yourself in it, turn it the other way and you see the world.” -Agnes Varda

Look closely into the mirror, what do you see? Look closer, what else do you see? Look even closer….

Creating a self-portrait is very personal process. This style of portraiture allows an artist to tell a story about themself through a chosen medium. Beyond “what do I look like”, investigations of “who am I” can be discovered during this in-depth study of one’s own self.  

The children’s pilgrimage of developing their self-portrait spanned over a long period of time. Using primary colors, black and white, they began by first blending paint to create their custom skin tones. This journey illuminated the beautiful wide spectrum and varieties of skin tones in the world and in our classroom. The children then worked in the art studio to draw their portraits.

As they entered the sunlit studio, the only item sitting on the table was a round mirror. They sat down and were invited to gaze at their reflection to study every line, mark, color, and any other perfectly unique feature on their faces. After this close study of their reflection, they were then given sharpies to draw what they see. We discussed the shapes they saw, including their heads, is it really a circle? Are your noses and eyes just dots, or do you see more? What about your mouth, when you smile or open your mouth, what’s inside? What else do you see?

“These are my bangs!” -Jackie            

“I have freckles.” -Colton

“I’m going to draw a crown on my head.” -Vera

“I have braid, so there’s my braid.” -Nya

“Those are my teeth there.” -Massimo

When the drawing portion of their self-portrait was complete, they began to create some new color palettes.  After close observation of their reflections, they noticed an assortment of colors. Hair, eyes, lips, and clothing hues were mixed up by these color creating experts. The final step was painting the portraits using their self-mixed skin tone and the other facial feature paints. The portraits are now displayed as a gallery in the classroom.  Their self-study exhibition is on display for the artists and visitors to view each day.

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