Frida Kahlo-Inspired Portraits

A lot of things have changed this summer at PSA. We have fewer children, fewer teachers, limited contact between classrooms, assigned drop off times. One thing hasn’t changed though – our intentionality in working with children.

In the Sunshine Room, the teachers wondered if they could find a common thread among their new group of students to weave together the varied interests along with our current pandemic and political climate. They chose to focus on Frida Kahlo for a number of reasons.

  1. Not only was Frida a Spanish speaker (something the children had expressed interest in, and had already begun to explore), she also wore beautiful flower crowns (like a princess, something the children had also expressed interest in.)
  2. Despite facing major hardships in her life, Frida was able to develop a passion and talent for painting. This is a great reminder for all of us as we continue to face the hardships that this pandemic have caused. Find joy! Find the silver linings!
  3. Frida was proud of her unique features. In fact, she highlighted them as a way to help change the way people thought about how women look and what women do. This is especially important in thinking about today’s issues surrounding fairness and equality!

To start, we read the book Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown.

Because Frida would often paint herself with her animals, I asked the children, what animals would you like to include in your self portrait?

Student: A cat and a butterfly!
Student: Spider monkeys and a snow leopard!
Student: My cat!

This summer, instead of each classroom visiting the art and studios, our Specialists are creating provocations in a box that get delivered to the classroom each week. Our art box came with the book The Colors of Us by Karen Katz, along with table top mirrors, and a variety of skin-colored paint swatches, markers, oil pastels, and pencils.

The children were invited to create a self-portrait with a focus on observing and drawing the details they notice. They were also offered many different skin tones to use with the intention of building language, understanding and appreciation of diversity and anti-bias identity.

First, the children examined their skin, and experimented with various colors until they were comfortable choosing a match.

Next, I gave them a mirror and asked them to tell me about what they see.

Finally, the children were given a permanent marker. They carefully studied their faces in the mirror, stopping to draw each part of their face.

Student: I kind of drawed my eyes funny. They look like this (demonstrates and giggles). That’s kind of funny!

Our final step was adding their special skin color!

Student: I think this matches my belly! Let me see… Yep! It does! This is my color!

Our second step involved some scissor work. The children practiced their fine motor skills by cutting out their chosen animals and gluing them onto their portrait. Though successful, we could all use a little more practice!

Student: I love spider monkeys! I going to have two just like Frida Kahlo!

Our final step to finishing our Frida Kahlo-inspired self-portraits was to add flower crowns. The children had a blast picking out a variety of flowers to make their very own crowns. They played around with multiple variations until they found just the right combinations.

Reflection by Heather Naxi, Sunshine Room Teacher

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