Pathway: Exploring Identity

Pathway for Years 5 & 6

Collage, Drawing, Sketchbooks 

Key Concepts:

  • That artists embrace the things which make them who they are: their culture, background, experiences, passions – and use these in their work to help them create work which others can relate to.

  • That people are the sum of lots of different experiences, and that through art we can explore our identity. 

  • That we can use techniques such as working with layers to help create imagery which reflects the complex nature of our identities.

  • That as viewers we can then “read” imagery made by other people, unpicking imagery, line, shape, colour to help us understand the experience of the artist. 

In this pathway children are introduced to artists who explore their identity within their art. 

Pupils explore how artists use various aspects of their identity, creating imagery which explores many different aspects within one image by using layers and juxtaposition. Children listen to how the artists construct their work, before working physically in drawing and collage or digitally on a tablet to make their own layered and constructed portrait. 

Pupils also use sketchbook throughout to help them generate ideas, experiment with materials and techniques, and record and reflect. 

Drawing Materials, Tablet (if digital), Paper

Artists: Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Yinka Shonibare, Thandiwe Muriu, Mike Barrett

This pathway will take approximately half a term, based upon a weekly art lesson. 

If you use this resource in your setting, please tag us on social media: #InspiredBy @accessart (facebook, twitter) (instagram) and share the url. Thank you!

The Drawing 2 by Mike Barrett
Self portrait details by Mike Barrett
Portrait Club Sketch by Jake Spicer
ages 9-11

Teaching Notes

Find the MTP for this pathway here.

Curriculum Links

History: Explore the identity of a figure from your chosen history topic.

PSHE: Collaboration, Peer Discussion, Different Religions, Ethnic Identity.

I Can…

  • I have seen how artists explore their identity by creating layered and constructed images. I can share my response to their work with my classmates.

  • I can use my curiosity to think about how I might adapt techniques and processes to suit me.

  • I can use my sketchbook to record, generate ideas, test, reflect and record.

  • I can work digitally or physically to create a layered portrait to explore aspects of my identity, thinking about line, shape, colour, texture and meaning. 

  • I can share my work with my classmates,  articulate how I feel about the journey and outcome. I can listen to  feedback from my classmates and respond. 

  • I can appreciate the work of my classmates and I can reflect upon  the differences and similarities of their work (and experience)  to mine. I can share my response to their work.

  • I can take photographs of my artwork, thinking about lighting, focus and composition. 


This pathway takes 6 weeks, with an hour per week. Shorten or lengthen the suggested pathway according to time and experience. Follow the stages in green for a shorter pathway or less complex journey.


Soft B pencils, handwriting pens, sharpies, oil/chalk pastels, acrylic or ready mixed paints, inks, brushes, A4 cartridge paper, collage papers, digital devices (tablets) if working digitally.


Pathway: Exploring Identity

A PDF of this pathway can be found here.

  • Aims of the Pathway

    The aim of this pathway is to enable children to explore how artists embrace aspects of their experience of life – using their background, culture, race, gender, and interests to inform and shape their artwork. 

  • Week 1: Introduce

    Discover Artists & Approaches

    Explore the free to access Talking Points below and introduce pupils to artists who work with notions about identity. 

    Explore as few or as many of the artists below as you would like:

    Have sketchbooks open and make time during the exploration to use the “Making Visual Notes” resource. For example pupils might make references, collect ideas, jot down methods of working, draw equivalents etc. 

  • Week 2: Sketchbook work

    Portrait Club

    Pen Portrait from Portrait Club by Jake Spicer

    Bring portraiture into the classroom in a light-hearted flexible way with the “Portrait Club” resource. Encourage open and intuitive observational drawing.

  • Weeks 3, 4 & 5: Explore & Create

    Making Layered Portraits

    The Drawing 2 by Mike Barrett

    Use the “Let Me Inspire You: Mike Barrett” resource to enable a physical (using drawing materials, paper, collage), or digital exploration of how to make a layered portrait which captures aspects of your personality and identity. 

    The resource consists of 4 parts: a video from Mike introducing himself and then 3 stepped stages to the project.

    Use sketchbooks throughout to help explore and focus, test and reflect.

    Textured background close-up by Mike Barrett

  • Week 6: Present & Share

    Share, Reflect, Discuss


    layered Portraits by Mike Barrett

    Time to see the work which has been made, talk about intention and outcome. 

    If you have class cameras or tablets, invite the children to document the work, thinking about lighting, focus and composition. 

    Use the resource here to help you run a class “crit” to finish the project. 

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