Project Length – Approx. 2 x 1 hour sessions
Ages – 5 – 11
For this project, I wanted the children to begin to really look at their faces and question their previous understanding. I began by providing them with mirrors and asking them to look carefully at their faces. We had a discussion about where the various features are on the face and I showed them how to use a pencil to measure features in relation to each other. I provided the children with a generic face shape template. I gave them the choice as to whether they would use this to give them a rough outline to get them started or just go for it by themselves. Older and more confident children opted to have a go at drawing freehand while others were glad of the template. On the templates I had marked off thirds on each side and the top and bottom. Once they had drawn around the template they used these marks as a guide to make small dots on their outline. Those that hadn’t used the templates had a bit of help to mark off thirds on their drawings.
At this point we looked in the mirror again and talked about how the face fits roughly into the ‘rule of thirds’. Once again they used pencil measuring to prove to themselves that the eyes are, in fact, a third of the way down the face (many found this hard to believe at first!) and that the bottom of the nose is two thirds from the top. I showed them how to lightly draw in lines to join the dots up on their face outlines, firstly dividing it into thirds and then adding in the top to bottom line to divide it into sixths.
We stayed working as a group to get the features in place, with me drawing on my example sheet at the front. I showed them how to draw the eyes as if they were ‘hanging off’ the first horizontal line. It is worth reminding them to look carefully at the shape of their eyes when doing this as some children will think they are circular. We added the iris and pupil to the eye and then drew in the nostrils and the bottom on the nose sitting on the second horizontal line. We divided the final third in half again as guide as to where the lips should be. Once again I told them to look carefully in the mirror at their mouths. They held a pencil straight up from the corners of their mouths to see where it lined up with the eye (be carefully that the sharp end isn’t pointing towards the eye!). The final part of the group drawing was to get the ears in place. It is worth looking carefully again here as many children were surprised at the where their ears began and finished!
After this guided drawing I let them continue to work on their own, adding in all of the additional details such as hair, eye brows, neck and shoulders. Most children pretty much had their drawings done by the end of session 1.
In the second session, the main aim was to get the children mixing up skin tones. I provided them with white, yellow, red and blue ready mixed tempera paint. To get them started, I did a demonstration at the front in which I showed them how to mix a peachy skin tone and a brown skin skin tone. They had a look in the mirrors again and we had a chat about what kind of skin tone they each had. Some less confident or younger children chose to use the tones I had mixed but add to them to make them more personal to them. Others wanted to challenge themselves to mix the correct tone from scratch, which was great. Once the skin tone was down they carried on mixing to create their eye and hair colour. I encouraged children who finished quickly to go back and have a really careful look at their faces and add in more details. The finishing touch was to add a background colour to really enhance the portrait.
A lot of children found this a challenging project and were on a steep learning curve with regard to really looking and questioning as they draw. Most were ultimately really pleased with the final results though and they have learnt a lot of new skills to take away.