Back to Projects

Self Portraits

School: Alice B. Beal Elementary

City/State: Springfield, MA

Grade(s): 1

Format(s): Visual arts

Subject(s): Science and Technology, Visual Arts

Project Overview

These self-portraits were created by 1st grade students at the Alice B. Beal Elementary School in Springfield, Massachusetts. This artwork became the cover of books students created that included autobiographies, original stories and artwork. The books were the result of an investigation of author/illustrators, which culminated in the students themselves becoming author/illustrators.

Students created these self-portraits through a drafting process that lasted over a week’s time and included: 1. drawing from memory and their impressions of themselves, with peer critique; 2. working from mirrors, with peer critique; and 3. working from digital photos of themselves, with peer critique. The original artwork of selected students was framed and hung in the front of the school. 

For this project, students were taught how to use fine-line permanent markers and professional quality, soft-lead colored pencils. The quality of the materials – not often trusted to students of this age – made a great difference in the clarity of line and richness of color distinctive in these portraits.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Shows high quality artwork by first graders; although self-portraits is an oft-used format, the quality of work is not typically this rich or high
  • The three different methods of creating the drafts are a useful model (i.e. impression, mirror, and photo)
  • Rare example of close analysis of self
  • Demonstrates the power of teaching how to use high quality art materials
  • Intriguing portraits that show details and understanding of facial proportions, all of which are stylistically unique and show expressive student hand
Back to Projects