Fingerpainting the Moon: mark making + portraits
I recently volunteered to help my son’s prechool class with a school-wide art project on self-portraits. Each child in the whole school is to make some sort of self-portrait which will be hung up on the walls in February. My son’s classroom is a mixed age room, ages 3-5, so the skill level range is huge! I found that some kids were very capable at drawing figures and some were still in the scribbling mode. I came up with a project that I hoped would allow each child to feel successful and just be creative. And I did not want to do anything that was too crafty, which was all I was finding for this age group when I firsted started searching for inspiration online at various kid art websites.
I came up with a mixed media project that included photography, of course! What else- that is what my own personal art work entails.
This past fall I went to NYC for one of my closest friend’s wedding. My husband and I took a stroll through Soho and Chinatown one day and I was struck by the “grandness” of the street art there. This particular wall became the inspiration for the self portrait project I am doing with the kiddos.
No, I did not have the preschoolers emulate graffiti. But what I did was focus on was mark making and color washes. I gave them oil pastels and told them to draw their hearts out- symbols, stick figures, shapes, scribbles, letters, numbers, etc. Whatever they wanted to do. And after that I gave them watercolor to paint over their marks. It was so fun to see their eyes widen as their original oil pastel drawings popped out from their paper once the watercolor went over it. I wish I could say that I gave a well thought out lesson on what wax-resist is- but remember, I was dealing with getting 23 squirmy 3-5 year olds to produce work! Maybe next time…
Making marks in and of itself a form of self-portraiture, just like one’s signature. It is such a pure form of an individual’s expression. One of my favorite quotes says:
No one else but you can make your marks. Listen to your bones. Speak with your spirit. Edit with your head. Live with your heart. – S.Holland
The teachers and I also had the kids come up with “I am ____” statements that helped me direct them with their paintings and later with their photographs. The hardest part of the painting was to get the kids to fill the entire page. Some would just want to draw one little thing and say “I’m done!” and I would be like, “No, no, no, keep going”.
I won’t be posting photos of the finished projects because of permission issues, but I wanted to share the projects I did with my own kids and my nieces and nephews as practice runs before I went in the classroom. We had so much fun! And they were all very proud of their finished projects.
Noah, age 4
on the left side you can see his drawing of the Sears Tower or as he calls it “The Serious Tower”. He loves drawing the skyscrapers he sees living in Chicago.
So the class project is still in progress, but I really enjoyed working with my son’s classmates. So much energy! Reminded me of the days I did speech/language therapy in Early Childhood and Head Start classrooms back in the day…except this was way more fun. While I had the natural tendency to use my art towards therapy goals, I never did in depth projects like this. It was more about doing challenging speech and language therapy in a way that didn’t cause tears, tantrums, screeching, silence, non-response, or hiding under the tables. I’m not kidding.
I hope the project goes over well with the parents. I’ve never done anything like this before and feel a little nervous! ha! Well, I think the kids did a great job and we had fun while we were at it. That’s what counts, right? And I also know that it made my son so happy to have his mama in the classroom doing art with his friends.