Self-Portraiture at Preschool of the Arts

Artists often use self-portraits as a way of expressing various aspects of themselves and their identities beyond the surface of their physical appearance.sp1

What does self-portraiture mean to young children?

At Preschool of the Arts, we explore self-portraiture as a way to engage children in examining the details which make up their faces, and then, drawing/creating what they see (as opposed to creating their idea of a face). This practice of observing details closely, and separating the parts from the whole, serves as a pre-cursor to drawing from observation, and supports early literacy skills.

Drawing self-portraits supports communication development. Children begin to name their facial features such as eyes, nose, mouth, ears, as well as talking about the colors they see in their face, hair, and eyes.

Remy closely examines a shell before placing it over his eye in the photograph.
A student closely examines a shell before placing it over his eye in the photograph.

The youngest of our children at Preschool of the Arts explore portraiture through examining photographs of their faces and ornamenting them with natural materials.

With this provocation our youngest children are able to discern and point out their different features.

A student holds his self – portrait up to his face to see how it matches up.
“I made eyeballs. Look at my nose! Look at my hair!” 

“A portrait is something you make that shows what you think of yourself.” ~PSA student.

Drawing JUST one’s face can be challenging for young children as they often feel compelled to draw all of the parts of their bodies. Likewise with drawing the idea of themselves- as opposed to what they actually see when looking at their reflection.

A child’s self-portrait can reveal many things. As with any drawing, it shows the development of a child’s fine motor, observation and focusing skills. But it also can give insight into a child’s self-concept. In other words, it is the best way for a grown-up to see a child through that child’s own eyes.sp9sp6


How do young children perceive and represent themselves?

Student There are many different colors in my hair. Some is almost white then there’s brown in there and dark blond…maybe even a little apricot like my skin.

Student Look at all of my teeth. My mouth is open all of the time, so I want to draw it like that.

sp5Children’s self-portraits test our adult observation skills because the telling elements are often in the details.

By exploring their “me-ness” (coined by Loris Malaguzzi,) whether working with educators or independently, children are learning a great deal about themselves and are enhancing various skills~ they develop their observational, expressive and reflective skills. In working with their educators, children build positive reciprocal relationships with one another as well as a positive relationship with themselves.







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