“Don’t hate the selfie” has been the theme I used to kick off the 2015 school year with the kiddos. Selfies are easy to hate… and I do kind of hate them. But the origins of the selfie, the self portrait, are an entirely different story. No one can deny the impact or relevance of the self portrait in the art world both historically and currently.
Self portraits are a great way to get kids to investigate and share about themselves.
One of my favorite self portrait lessons is a first grade lesson inspired by Henri Rousseau. We start by looking at self portraits and defining the word. We then look at this specific self portrait by Rousseau. We talk about what we can learn about Rousseau by looking at the piece. We can tell he likes art because he painted himself holding a brush and palette. We can tell that he is in Paris, France because the Eiffel Tower is in the background. The flags and tent suggest that there may be some sort of festival taking place… The kids really love looking for hints in this painting.
Next, I tell the kids what I know about this painting. I tell them that this painting was completed in 1889 around the time of the World’s Fair. Henri Rousseau painted himself at the world’s fair (hence the flags, the hot air balloon, and tents). We talk about the Eiffel Tower’s origin. We talk about size relationships in the piece (i.e. Why is Rousseau bigger than the boat? Because he’s in the foreground.) Then comes the creation component. Each child is to draw a self portrait that includes a foreground and background. They will be in the foreground holding something that tells me about them. Maybe you are holding a football if you play football…. Maybe you’re holding a violin if you play the violin. The background will include details about WHERE they are. Are you outside or inside? What’s the weather like? Are you at home or school?
This lesson invariably gets great results. We construct people out of basic shapes and then the kids go to town adding their own details. I love learning about the kids as they work.
After we draw we add color. This year we’re using crayon, but this could be done in any medium.
How adorable are these?! The little girl with heart sunglasses, a crown, hot dog in one hand, and a magic wand in the other… BAHAHA!!!