What your child can learn from doing a self portrait

Face Britain project, www.facebritain.org.uk
Children often draw pictures of themselves, along with friends and family. Self portraits are actually a key part of learning and personal development, so provide the paper, pencils and opportunity for your child to have a go.

The biggest collection of self portraits in the world, Face Britain was a national art project that offered every child the opportunity to make their face famous. Jeremy Newton, Chief Executive of The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts, explains why it’s so important for children to immortalise themselves in their own work of art.

1. Your child is unlikely to have a better excuse for looking at themselves in the mirror. A self portrait gives children the time to study their eyes, nose, mouth and the rest of their face and body, and to work out how it all fits together – perfect for teaching children how to draw basic body shapes.

2. Creating a self portrait allows the maximum amount of artistic freedom. It’s you, so you can create it anyway that you want. The simplicity of a self portrait means that children can experiment with whatever materials they like to create their portrait, and try any style they wish.

3. Self portraits are a great way to get into art history. Every artist, from Rembrandt to Tracey Emim, has had a go at their self portrait. It’s the perfect vehicle for tracing the changes in visual art from past to present.

4. Self portraiture is the most introspective of art forms. By creating a self portrait, children learn who they are, how they want to present themselves and what’s important to them.

5. Drawing a self portrait is also excellent for teaching children that these personal ideas aren’t the same as what everyone else thinks. Children can learn how diverse our society’s views, values and appearances are, and hopefully develop values of respect and tolerance.

6. Self portraiture helps your child to consider their aspirations for the future. When creating a self portrait it’s important to encourage your child not just to think about who they are but who they want to become. 

7. Self portraits allow children to see how they change as they grow. Like everyone, children are changing all the time – both year to year and day to day. Regular self portraits allow children to document that change, and help them to understand it.

8. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, creating a self portrait is fun! Self portraiture should be about creating something for yourself, and not worrying about what other people think or how they may respond. Children will learn that doing art is, at its best, quick, simple and enjoyable.