Monday, June 13, 2011

2011: Art Project 1: Self-Portraits

The girls were so excited to do their first art journal project today!! They could hardly wait until I got their brother down for his nap. I've decided that our first project each year will be a self-portrait. I did this last year (though I didn't write a blog post about it). Last year, I thought it would be good to just start out instructing them to draw whatever they wanted but they had to draw themselves in the picture. Here are last year's drawings:
Above is Lily's self-portrait last year (when she was 4 years old).
It shows her and her two lovey bears.
This is Ella's (at 6 years old). She told me she was enjoying a beautiful summer day. :-)

This year, I was a tiny bit more structured in that I did show them some self-portraits by famous artists (all images are screen captures I found using Google Images):
This first image is a self-portrait of Vermeer. We talked about how realistic the image looked and how he painted himself with a background. That it showed his whole body. I also told them that they didn't have cameras this long ago and we would never know what these artists looked like if they hadn't painted themselves.
This one is a self-portrait of Frida Kahlo. The girls and I talked about how this image didn't look as realistic as the Vermeer portrait. The girls didn't think she probably really had monkeys on her back. I didn't get into any of the symbolism of Kahlo's work because it would be way too deep for the girls. So we just left it as her picture was more imaginative than Vermeer's.
I asked the girls if they could maybe guess which artist this was. They didn't know. So then I asked them if the swirls told them anything. They still drew a blank, so I showed them their pictures of Starry, Starry Night from last year and they both immediately said, "Van...Van....oh, I can't remember!" Yep, Van Gogh!
The last image I showed them was Allegory as Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi, a female Italian Baroque painter. I told the girls this was one of my all-time favorite artists and that she was special because there were not very many female painters at all during her time.

Finally, we talked about how a self-portrait could be just someone's head and shoulders, part of their body, or their whole body. It could be with a landscape background or just a painted background real or pretend.

Then I told them to go ahead and use any of the art supplies they wanted (and I had them ALL out today) and make their self-portrait for this year. I had some new supplies they hadn't used before. I showed them how to use the watercolor pencils; first by coloring in an area and then by dipping their finger in water and gently "brushing" where they colored. They LOVED this. I think these are going to be a favorite art supply for the summer.

Here are some images of their work in progress:

Trying out the watercolor pencils below:

And their finished self-portraits:
Above: Ella's self-portrait. Again, her on a sunny summer day.
Below: Lily's self-portrait. She told me she's about to walk into the water at the beach.
It's so fun to compare to their drawings last year and to see the progress they've made in their drawing skills.

Because I knew they would be especially excited about art today, I figured they wouldn't be totally satisfied with just doing one picture. So I had them create a "2011" page in their journal to mark where this year's projects start. They could decorate this however they wanted as well.

Above: Lily's 2011, Below; Ella's 2011.


  1. Love it. They did amazing jobs. It is funny because as a therapist I am looking at all of the things they did and what it says about them. As a friend and a mom I am looking at their progress from last year to this and looking at the beauty of their works. The funny thing is both ways show great things. I can't wait to see what they will do next

  2. Ha ha! I wonder what you're thinking as a therapist?! :-) Can you tell that Ella is much more ordered in her life and likes things to be just so and Lily is much more free-spirited? ;-)