Creative Kids: A Selfie-Portrait

Fun activity combines high-tech, no-tech pastimes

Photo Provided Beth Gabrielson, 8, used half of a printed photo of her face as a guide for drawing the other half with colored pencils.

It’s family travel season. A time to visit monuments, landmarks and iconic buildings at tourist destinations. With phones instantly accessible from back pockets, a smartphone photo album isn’t complete without numerous selfies taken in front of places such as Mount Rushmore, the Alamo or the Golden Gate Bridge.

Let’s face it: Kids and adults love to see their smiles front and center any time of year when they are out and about. But with all the focus on faces, how much facial recognition is registering in our brains? The latest phones, with infrared face scanning, can stitch the patterns into an image of your face to determine if your phone is yours for identification purposes. But, that’s way too complicated for me to understand.

Here’s a simple and fun art activity that leans in the no-tech direction. Well, half no-tech, since kids will be using half of a printed selfie photo (from a phone or camera) as a guide to draw the other half of their face. It’s a challenging portrait-drawing exercise for young school-age kids this summer, and maybe even you!

Here’s the stuff you’ll need:

One large sheet of plain white construction or drawing paper

One 8-by-10-inch headshot photo of child or adult, including neck and top of shoulders taken with a smartphone or camera

Here’s the fun:

Together with your child, look at the photo and talk about the location of features such as mouth, nose, cheekbones, eyebrows and ears.

Cut the photo in half, and glue one half to the matching side of the paper.

Your child may now transfer the recognition of “face basics” to drawing the other half of him- or herself using a pencil. Be sure to include neck and shoulders.

Go over the pencil lines with a thick black marker or color crayon, if you wish.

Use colored pencils to fill in and complete the self-portrait half. Or, experiment with a standard watercolor paint kit to paint it. Be sure the paint is very watery so that it appears transparent on the paper. Let dry.

Frame the artwork in a simple frame or matting. Add hook and wire to back, and hang on the wall.

Extra idea: Find an interesting photo or drawing in a magazine. Cut it in half lengthwise and adhere to art paper like above.

Draw or paint a rendering to accompany it on the opposite half of the paper.

Donna Erickson’s series “Donna’s Day” airs on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”


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