Back to School Portraits

The sunny weather might linger well into September but summer fun changes with the start of the school calendar. It is a perfect time to hit the pause button and find time to complete an art project. This self portrait project can capture your child’s wild summer days or in contrast, her first day of school. This simple work of art can have a huge impact on the viewer because of it’s important subject- your child!

Materials for the self portrait:

Print a black and white headshot of your child. I ordered the largest size available online at and picked it up at our local, Independent grocers a week later.

Dollar Store Supplies

  • Self adhesive laminating sheets or clear sheet protector
  • Paint (tempora or similar)
  • Paint brushes or foam rollers
  • Liquid chalk markers
  • Bingo dabbers

How to:

The child will get to paint directly on the photograph. I encourage the child to start painting the background first before applying any paint to their image. It is most successful if the child uses smaller paint brushes or takes her/his time when adding any paint details to their image.

Once the paint dries on the photograph you can place it in the clear, plastic sleeve. Your child can take the colourful liquid chalk markers and add whatever detail they choose directly on top of the plastic sleeve to the portrait. If they are not happy with the markers they will simply wipe off the clear sleeve. Do they want to give themselves a crown or trace their lips in rainbow colours? How do they want to portray themselves? How do they see themselves?

Talking about self portraits with your child:

It is always fun to try out a medium, such as painting on an actual photograph but a discussion about what a self portrait is and what it can mean to a child adds a wonderful depth to the project.

“In her self portrait, a child offers herself as both subject and artist. When we look at her self portrait we see a child as she sees herself. The story of self portrait work is a tender story to tell.”~ Journeying into Inquiry, CAROLINA SAENZ-MOLINA