Visual Arts Planning: Portraits

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The following resources on portraits and self-portraits provide an exciting opportunity for students to consider what sort of visual statements they can present about themselves.

These fun and inspiring projects cover a range of processes that aim to challenge preconceived ideas of what a portrait can be and to encourage learners to develop their creative skills through experimentation with a wide variety of media. 


Introducing Portraiture

Look up, Not down

Students draw each other keeping their eyes on their partner and not looking at their drawing. A great icebreaker to begin a portrait drawing session.

Finger Palette Portraits

Using marks made by fingers and hands to approach portraiture, experimenting with pressure and sensitivity to mark making.

Drawing Cartoon characters

A school full of characters! In this workshop we explored capturing facial expressions through cartoon sketches with children aged 6 to 10.

Drawing faces

Using chalk and compressed charcoal and working quickly and rhythmically to create a pile of portrait studies.

Drawing portraits: A class celebration!

Working together to draw a ‘Portrait of a Class’. In this session, a group of teenagers explored drawing portraits of each other in pastel, on a large-scale.

Introduction to Portraits

Painter Hester Berry introduces some basic portrait drawing and painting concepts to primary-aged children and their teachers.

Portraits inspired by henri matisse

Matisse often drew an object or life pose many times in succession. A resource that seeks to break down barriers of pre-conceived ideas of what a drawing should be.

Inspired by 18th Century portraits

Looking at drawing as a means to looking, and as a means to capturing representational interpretations of paintings.

Spotting potential and nurturing talent

How do we react when a child responds to a task in a very different way to their peers? Do we stop them, remind them of our expectations and demonstrate again, watching them carefully as they continue?

Portrait Club

In this resource Jake Spicer, Head Tutor at Draw Brighton, demonstrates how portraiture can be brought into the classroom setting in a light-hearted and flexible way, to encourage intuitive observational drawing

Printmaking and Sculpture

drypoint etching

Artist Maureen Crosby shares a simple and accessible printing process to enable children to make small, etched self-portraits.

Exploring Portraits

Artist Eleanor Somerset shows how to use mixed media and collaged drawings to inspire a relief self-portrait in clay, as well as a lino print.

Plinth People: Sculptural self portraits

Starting off with a balanced object that can be manipulate and added to – enabling the process of creating dynamic figures that can stand independently.


Watercolour portrait

Read an interview with a young artist, aged 12, who worked to build a watercolour painting of her friend.

Backpainted Portraits

How to create portraits using an effective back painted technique. A great activity to explore less traditional portraiture methods.

Self-Portrait in Acrylic

This post shares the process of 11 year old girl as she paints an acrylic self-portrait for a school project inspired by Renaissance art.
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