Friday, October 22, 2021

TEN Amazing Self-Portrait Ideas!

Self Portrait Art can reveal many things:
How do I see myself? How do I wish to be seen by others? How might I look in the future? How could I change my look if I wanted to? Who am I?

Young artists like to create self portraits that look a certain way without focusing too much attention on challenging endeavors such as correct facial features and proportional body parts. They are much more interested in projecting an image of themselves that pleases them personally.

Instead of saying, "draw a picture of yourself," I like to provide creative ideas and imaginative opportunities to create self- expressive portrait art. This can allow the child to live vicariously by experimenting with different 'selves' - or self images. Or perhaps different looks or appearances. Different ways of being

This can even work when learning about the master artists. For example, a self portrait created in the manner of Marc Chagall (see lesson below) would result in something quite different than a Picasso inspired self portrait! 

Below you will find TEN different ways to inspire expressive self portrait artwork. Grade recommendations are suggestions only: most of these lesson ideas can be adjusted to the creative abilities of any young artist. So let's get creative and have some fun with expressive self portrait art!!!

Pre-school through lower elementary grades:

Super Me!  (ta da!!!)

Guess what? Young children REALLY like the idea of being a super heroes! (Who knew?) Imagine... "The Burp" saves the day!!!

Our superheroes were drawn with Sharpies. Then the backgrounds were painted with watercolor. The idea was to create starbursts, starting with a dot in the center of the page and painting "lines" from it to the edges. Or not. While they painted, I cut out the figures. Then the portraits were glued to the dried background. 

Here's a similar project using bleeding tissue to create the colorful background. And this one involves a variety of mixed media, but is oh-so-simple, even for the youngest artists! (I think it's adorable!)

These portraits involve a bit more creativity and planning. The full figure portrait is drawn, colored, and cut out.  Then the artist asks, "what will I be doing?" Jumping rope? Swinging? Skateboarding? Dancing? Once they decide, they will choose a few additional elements needed to complete the artwork. They might use scraps of yarn and fun foam to create a swing, or shiny glittery papers for an sparkly dance background.  

Finally, they'll attach their surprise 3D elements to the artwork and then place themselves at center of the scene! 

What kid doesn't want to make a life sized 'twin' of him or herself?

We made these as a "Try It" Makerspace Challenge. Our artists found out right away that this would be a cooperative effort. After all, once you lie down on the big sheet of butcher paper, you can't really draw around yourself - you need help!!!  

As these life sized portraits are drawn and then painted, decisions are made regarding facial expressions, skin tones, hair styles, accessories, clothing fashions, and colors. 

Collage elements can be added for additional awesomeness, such as shiny papers for jewelry and yarn for hair.

Now display your 'twin' on your bedroom door to watch over things while you are away!

Elementary grades:

Me and My Shadow  

This "3D" self portrait is deceptively easy to create! 

The artist first draws a picture of him/herself doing something: it's all about action! After the drawing is completed and colored in, it is placed on top of a piece of black paper and taped here and there to keep the pieces together. Now the artist carefully cuts out the figure, cutting through both sheets to create a duplicate black figure. 

The black shadow is then glued down to a piece of construction paper. Then the portrait is glued over the shadow, being sure to offset it somewhat so that the shadow can be clearly seen behind the figure. 


Kids love creating these mini versions of themselves! 

Call them mini-me's, avatars, personal cartoon characters, self animations, twins, or personal clones... whatever they are, they'll love this project! 

Learn how to make them on our previous weblog post - and have fun!!! 

Flying Me! 

What child hasn't dreamed about flying?

These paintings are created in the dream-like style of surrealist Marc Chagall, which often contained dreamy scenes and imagery from his childhood fantasies - of flying, floating, and soaring through the sky. 

This mixed media painting is a favorite from our Paint Like the Masters summer series. See our previous weblog post to help your child create his or her own flying self!

Minecraft Me

Any kid who loves Minecraft might like to become a Minecraft character too!

This fun project can be created in two or three (virtual) dimensions depending upon the skill level of the artist. It can be found at art projects for We have also created a printable pdf with additional instructions for adding a 3-D look to your Minecraft self!

This project uses graph paper (printed or your own) and might involve a teeny little bit of math... but no worries - it's easy and fun!

Middle school and high school:

Lego Me

"How would I look as a LEGO person?" That's a question that can be answered with art

We made these amazing Lego people by first inspecting a few Lego people from our MakerSpace Lego collection. Then we designed and created our own personal Lego characters. 

This mixed media, toy-based self portrait art project was so much FUN, even our older artists loved it - including me!

Pop Art Me

Here is another 'Paint like the Masters' art lesson, this time featuring the 1960's pop art of Andy Warhol. This is a digital art / creative collage project, which older kids can really get into!

To create our pop art, we used fotoflexer to create our grid of Warhol-like portraits, which we printed out for our collage. We've since found an easier-to-use app for this, called

Next, you'll collect and cut out your initials from everywhere, and add them, along with any other chosen images, to your collage! Check out our previous weblog post for all the details.

Manga Me 

Manga are Japanese style comic book characters that are very popular with older kids who enjoy drawing. They were originally produced in black & white as daily comics, but they can be modified with color and more detail, as though creating anime characters, which are used in animation.  

The goal is to study this type of character drawing to create a manga-style self portrait, which in turn could be used as a personal avatar!

You can learn more about creating manga character portrait art at, where you'll find everything thing you need to create your own Manga style personal avatar!

BONUS PROJECT!  Take an imaginary trip - and then take a selfie!

First, print out this pdf of fun selfie frames (four in all). Young artists can then create their own 'selfies' by drawing themselves in the frames and adding any type of background they wish - the Eiffel Tower? The Great Pyramids of Egypt? The bottom of the sea? Outer space? Remind them to wear the appropriate attire - such as a wetsuit & goggles or a spacesuit - for their chosen destination!

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