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That’s Me! The Process of Self-Portraits

October 26, 2021 | Clara Buckley

Throughout their years at Mustard Seed School, students create self-portraits in many media and styles. There is a lot to observe and record in a self-portrait and we know we are asking a lot of the child. So we spread out the work over a week, breaking down the process into several steps over a number of days.

Stamina for a multi-step process is something that challenges most young children. Often they know and understand more than they can actually do. They get tired before they can finish. Muscles get tired from using them in new ways and the mind gets tired from remembering the steps and processes.

On the first day in paint, we focused on the shape of our head – a circle, or oval. Drawing a complete circle is a skill we work on throughout the year with three-year-olds. To practice that shape, each child used a finger to trace the shape of their head. Then traced the shape with a dry paintbrush on the paper. Finally, we dipped our paintbrush in paint and created our face. A lot of work for our first day.

Each day we observed another feature on our face and added it to the painting. Children are noticing symmetry, positioning, size variation, color values.

For the eyes, we looked closely to see the three different colors. Then we needed extra patience to wait for the white paint to dry before adding our iris color, and finally the black pupil.

Lastly we added hair to the self-portrait and any extra, distinctive details, like pink glasses!

When the self-portraits were complete, we took time as a class to reflect on our hard work. The children shared what they enjoyed about their own, or a friend’s, self-portrait.

“My lips I painted because they’re red.”

“My mouth and teeth.”

“The hair in front of my eye.”

“The eyes and hair.”

Clara Buckley

Teacher, Rivers Class; Middle School Art

Clara Buckley’s teaching spans the ages of Mustard Seed School, from the youngest students in the preschool to students in the graduating class. She’s found many similarities between teaching three-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds!

As an art teacher who never enjoyed drawing, Ms Buckley’s hope is that each child she teaches discovers a way to create art that they enjoy, whether it be sculpture, printing, textiles, architectural drawing, or collage.

Ms. Buckley loves living in Jersey City, a place whose diversity and welcome for immigrants reflects her own family experience. When planning future travel destinations, art, food, and time with family are featured items on her list.

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