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The Best Second Grade Art Project Ever!

Updated: Apr 11

This is one of those projects where they all come out looking different and fresh! It is something that parents will want to hang on to. Best of all, your students will have so much fun making this self-portrait! This project is best suited for 2nd and 3rd graders.

Materials Needed:

Large white construction paper, india ink in small dabbers, chalk pastels and free standing self-portrait mirrors (unbreakable).

I start out by introducing my students to the French artist Henri Matisse. Matisse was a "Fauvist." The word Fauvism translates to "Wild Beasts." In the early 1900's when critics first saw this new style of art they were shocked by the color, many hated it. However, Matisse's style was eventually embraced and he is now considered one of the greatest colorists of all time. With their exploration of color, shape and form, Matisse, along with Picasso and a few other visionary painters helped change the trajectory of art.

Step 1: Start by giving them a mirror, a piece of copy paper and a dabber filled with india ink. It's super important that you demonstrate to them how to use the dabber and how NOT to squeeze it tightly. I demonstrate how to quickly draw my face with an ink dabber filled with india ink. I do tell them where the features go, but I do not yet expect them to be able to draw things correctly or in the "right place." However, they always do surprise me by drawing themselves quite realistically and accurately! Again, it is super important to stress to them not to squeeze the dabbers. I always tell them the story about the student who squeezed it hard and the top shot off and black india ink squirted all over his shirt and face. Lesson learned for both of us!

Ask them to look in the mirror and practice drawing themselves on the white copy paper. Using the ink dabbers forces kids not to get lost in the details.

Step 2: Give them a sheet of large white paper and ask them to draw a final draft on the large paper. This year I gave them the option of colored construction paper, but I liked how they turned out better last year with just the white paper option. I ask them to draw themselves life sized, and to include their shoulders and the top part of their shirt. This takes one class period. We add color during the next class. Make sure each student put their name on the back with pencil and put it on the drying rack to dry. I don't mind if students put their name on the front as long as they write it nice and small in a bottom corner, I show them how to do this.

Step 3, Next Class: Pass back artwork along with a bowl of chalk pastels. Show students how to smudge and blend colors. Let them know that the chalk can go right over the black lines, so if there is an area they are unhappy with, they may be able to cover it with chalk. Remind them that the colors do not need to be realistic, they should be expressive and colorful! Let the coloring begin!

"Can I make a new one?" Some students will insist on doing the india ink drawing a few times until they get it just right. If a student is very unhappy with their first try I do allow them to try again. We are just using construction paper, and it's an inexpensive material. When we use a more expensive material like water color paper I tell them they have two chances (front and back), and only rarely do I give them an extra chance.

One thing you have to be as an elementary art teacher is flexible. Each child is an individual, some are more happy moving on with an imperfect drawing, and some just cannot move on without a complete emotional breakdown, so I always make exceptions.

If you have spray fixative you can spray the finished projects to help the chalk stay in place. I usually skip this because there just isn't enough time. As an alternative you could also have students place them between a sheet of newspaper.


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