Thursday, January 31, 2013

Paul Klee Inspired Self Portrait Lesson

Self portrait face proportions lesson for kids
Art Teachers loooove to do self portraits with kids.  This was a cool twist on the self portrait AND it involves art appreciation AND is much easier to clean up and set up than paint.  Perfect! Read on if you wanna do it too. 

You will need:
- white paper (duh)
- sharpies
- newspapers or something to protect desks from said sharpies
- bleeding art tissue paper, cut into small squares (craft stores)
- 1 or 2 spray bottle(s)


1.) Introduce Paul slideshow of his work (especially ones with the colored squares).  Talk about how he was very interested in color theory - how colors relate to other colors around them. Ask kids to describe some of his paintings or share what they observed.

2.) Show how to draw a face in correct proportions. Have kids follow along with you as you draw on the board. They will draw all their guide lines in pencil. I learned about proportions of the face back in middle school and it's stuck with me. Here's a great, simple guide

3.) Once they have their guidelines, students trace over ONLY their features and add details in sharpie. Make sure they're not tracing their guide lines. They don't really need to erase their pencil lines, because  once the paper gets wet, they disappear. Emphasize that all the details unique to them will be what makes their portrait look like them: freckles, how they part their hair, face shape, etc. 

4.) Pass out tissue squares and have them lay them all out how they want them, thinking about Paul Klee and his experiments with color relationships. Go around and spray each piece with water once kids have them all laid out. After a couple minutes, take off tissue paper and let dry. So cute, right??

These were done by 3rd graders:

Self portrait face proportions lesson for kidsSelf portrait face proportions lesson for kids

Self portrait face proportions lesson for kids

Self portrait face proportions lesson for kidsSelf portrait face proportions lesson for kids


  1. I love them. They have done a great job with the proportions. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I just had the idea to do bleeding-tissue self-portraits with my kids and googled to get tips (i.e. would sharpie bleed, too?). Came across yours, and they are SO gorgeous! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Thank you so much for this detailed tutorial. I did this project successfully with fourth graders but gave them the whole range of tissue paper colors so ended up with lots of portraits that looked like they were inspired by Rainbow Dash :) That said, they very carefully chose their colors and placed them. Also might have used too much water so they bled into a tie-dye effect. Another parent replicated with a sixth grade class and found them very self-conscious about symmetry and beauty. I liked another idea I saw for the older kids of only doing half a face.
    Thanks so much for the inspiration and excellent lesson plan.