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Art Journaling: The Self-Portrait

Posted on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 in Art


The girls came home with art notebooks from a tutorial that we tried for a few months, notebooks with pages full of different art projects that included watercolor and pastel and suddenly I was taken back to my days of art classes in college when I kept a regular art journal that combined drawing, collage, and writing.

We’ve been using sketchbooks for years here but we’ve always kept the sketching in the book, and the projects outside the book. Not anymore.  Now we pull out our nice big art notebooks and start dipping into a chosen medium.  We could do this everyday for three hours if no other school subjects called our names.  So far we’ve used watercolor, pastels, chalk, sharpie, and collage without any trouble.

This week we’re working with self-portraits.

Project 1: True To Life Self Portrait

On our first day we tried to be as true to the actual image of ourselves as possible.  I gave them pretty free reign with their mediums because the girls have been doing art forever and they often mix colors better than I can.  I also suggested they add in words about things they like and who they are into the background.

Mookie, age 10, sat in front of a mirror and came back with lots of insights about the shape of her nose, placement of her nostrils, and relationship of her mouth to her nose.  This is the best true self portrait she’s done to date.  She used sharpies and colored pencils. Her words are: Drama, Art, Books, Siblings, Mommy, Daddy, God, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit.


Jellybean, age 8, chose NOT to look in the mirror and she also adapted some exaggerated eyes that she had noticed in the self-portrait in my notebook.  The larger eyes actually suit her because her eyes are one of the features people notice first about her.  She used sharpie for outline(they all sketched in pencil first) and watercolor to fill in. Her words are: faith, love, life, hope, sister, determined, friend, I love ART.



Drummer boy, age 5, had a frustrating time trying to do art with his much more experienced sisters.  And I forget that he needs a little more guidance than his sisters.  So he gave up for the day then came back the next day and did a terrific self-portrait, he liked it, and he felt successful.  He used sharpie and watercolor.  His words are: big brother, legos, experiments, boy, kiss(he loves kisses).



Project 2: Calm/Wild Side Self-Portrait

Today we took our self-portraits to a new place and created portraits with a wild/calm side.

First we looked through picture books on hand and noticed calm and excited/wild colors. For calm we spotted a lot of soothing greens and blue, lighter shades of purple and yellow.  And for excited/wild we noticed oranges, reds, neon greens and bright purples.  We also looked at the pictures for lines in the art.  Straight  and soft curves for calm, and bigger curves, dips, points, and lively patterns for excited/wild.

After drawing a basic head, neck, and shoulder shape, they drew a line down the middle of the page. With pencil they added the details of their wild and calm sides, and then filled in with oil pastels for color.  You can see the original idea for this inspiration here.(This is a great website for art journaling, just scroll down her categories and look for art journaling and you’ll find a wealth of project ideas).

Mookie’s Self-portrait with demonstration of her wild side:





Drummer Boy alternated back in forth between his wild and calm side but he did great with the concept.



I have plans for a few other styles of self-portraits in the coming weeks and as we ended today’s project Jellbean made a suggestion, “You could decide at the end which of our portraits looks the most like ourselves.” I answered back with my own challenge, “I wonder if it will be the one that looks most true to your actual features or the style that gives the best glimpse into what’s inside your heart.  We’ll have to see.”

Bring on the comments

  1. Jimmie says:

    Awesome! I really enjoyed looking at their portraits. So fun and full of energy.

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