Chalk and Tempera Primary Portraits
I’ve been doing a different Kinder portrait for the last ten years of teaching art. I love mixing things up and experimenting with different combination of media. This year, I combined my favorite tempera paint with chalk and oil pastels. This might be my favorite combo of all!
I use one of three techniques for drawing portraits in Kindergarten. All three are outlined in my Fun with Portraits PDF. This year, I used the free-drawing (letter “U”) technique as this year’s group of Kinders collectively had a greater skill set than other years. This is hard to gauge but after doing 5 or 6 projects with the groups already, I can tell just how independent the children like to work. Some years, my sweet kinders need a bit more help. If this is the case, I use an oval template to help the children get started with their portraits. When the group as a whole is slightly more capable, I like to use the letter “U” approach. This means using a basic line and shape method of drawing.
Use an oil pastel on white 12″ x 18″ sulphite paper to draw the letter “U”, add a neck, shoulders, ears, hair and finally the features. Take a look at my Primary Portrait experiment for more details on instruction. My big objective for Kinders is to recognize that the shoulders extend from the neck and not their head!
Use a palette of liquid tempera paint to paint the shirt, background and skin color (in that order). This marks the end of day one. When the background dries, paint hair.
As always, I love to outline with oil pastel. Gives everything a bit more definition and helps minimize unwanted lines by allowing them to recede under the paint.
Use chalk to color in eyes, mouth and cheeks. I decided to use chalk to color in the features as the chalk is much easier to control. The kids loved the smudging of the chalk and had lots of fun painting with their fingers. Some children used the chalk to add details on their shirts and backgrounds.
Portrait making in Kindergarten should have reasonable expectations. I do not expect children to draw their exact likeness. In fact, I don’t use mirrors or talk too much about how to draw their shape of eyes and mouth. If I can get the children to draw two eyes, some type of nose and a mouth, I consider the lesson a success. If the children draw a neck and extend the shoulders from the neck and not the head, I consider the lesson a super success! Some children will obsess over a certain feature, like this little guy on the left. He was really into the eyes and kept going round and round. Who’s to stop him? The little girl’s portrait on the right started off with her shoulders protruding from the head. You can see how she added more lines and then painted her “mistake” away. We do a lot of this in my art class.
This portrait project was a true joy to instruct. The kids loved the entire process and the results were so lovely and individual. I know many parents will be in tears when they receive these precious gems in their child’s end-of-the-year portfolio.
What about you? What is your favorite medium for portrait making?