A look at Rembrandt’s self portraits by our elementary students had them quickly pointing out many facts that one would point out during an art history class. They noticed that often in his pictures he is seen wearing hats of different kinds. Moreover, he painted the three-quarter face and most of his portraits reveal his state of mind or economic condition at the time. I truly believe that reading artist’s works comes easy to children if they are asked the right questions.
So we set about making hats for ourselves to wear while making our self portraits. Using two sheets of newspaper, we measured, folded, taped and finally got our hats done!
The next step was to learn about three quarter faces. It was hard to look in the mirror at that angle but the kids managed it pretty well. After a bit of practise in their sketchbooks they drew out the portrait with the hat.
Painting was restricted to grey scale so as to get an understanding of light and shadow in the most basic manner. Kids first put in their darkest areas with a dark grey, going lighter and finally putting in the highlights. The exercise taught the kids how to look for darks and lights and view shapes of colour rather than individual features – a great lesson in furthering their art!
They completed their self portraits by adding words or phrases about themselves in the background.