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Realistic Self Portraits

Ahhh self portraits! Some kids love em, some kids absolutely hate em.

I start out by teaching basic cartooning. I feel like this loosens kids up a bit, and it also allows them to consider showing emotions. Cartoons have such exaggerated emotions and I feel like it is great practice for students to consider how to show emotions within their own portraits.

After cartooning, we spend some time focusing on each facial feature. We spent a day on eyes, a day on noses, a day on mouths, and a day on ears/hair. I graded these as progress, so I told students that as long as I saw effort, they would get full points. I took off points if they did not consider value or shading, or if they were misusing their cell phones.

I collected the facial features sketches and we moved on to proportion. To switch things up a bit, I decided to have my students do group drawings. Each group started with a face outline. They set up all of the proportions- we looked at an example on the board of where the lines should be. Where the eyes sit on, the noses, how far apart the eyes go, and where the ears go, etc. These can be found online.

I had students set up the face and then draw one realistic eye. After drawing, they were asked to switch with someone else. The second student drew the second realistic eye. Each time they switched, the student had to consider where each facial feature would go. These ending up looking like really creepy mugshots and my kids absolutely loved them!

This took about two days, because we wanted to make them look realistic and shade well. At the end, we did a critique. Students were asked to go around and identify anything that looked proportionally “off”. Comments included things such as “eyes are too far apart,” “ears are too high”, “mouth is too close to nose” etc. Students got the sketch that they had originally started with and they held onto it for reference.

Lastly, I introduced the final assessment. Students drew a realistic photo of themselves. I asked them to bring in a picture of themselves. I opted to do it this way rather than looking at mirrors because I wanted them to be able to compare and contrast the values and progress of their drawings with the actual picture.

Students had two options for this- they could choose to freehand their portrait or use a grid. We had used a grid earlier in the year for realistic animal eyes, the link for that lesson can be found here.

If students wanted to grid, they could either do an outline first, or go square by square and shade everything completely. As a beginning Drawing & Painting and class, I felt that this approach really helped my students understand and be able to take their time throughout this assignment.

Here are the results!

Realistic Self Portraits High School Lesson Plan

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10 Words of Wisdom for a 20 Something Woman, from Other Women

  1. Emma Watson- Telling us that beauty doesn’t have a certain face or a particular look.


2. Melissa McCarthy- Saying that if you stay true to yourself, good things will come your way. The people who appreciate you will naturally gravitate towards you.

Melissa McCarthy Body Positive Quote • Curvy Quote • Inspirational Plus Size Celebrity:

3. Anna Hathaway- Reminding us to take breaks from what perfection looks like, how social media portrays us, and instead to consider what can we do that FEELS good.

50+ Celebrities Who Have Almost Died:

4. Blake Lively- Reminding us to not settle for less than we deserve, and to not just stay with someone because of loneliness.

If I'm not with somebody who really excites or inspires me, then I'd rather be by myself. - Blake Lively:

5. Barbara Streisand- Taking down the expectation that women’s lives should revolve around men.

Barbara Streisand <3:

6. Mindy Kaling- Reminding us that people are intimidated by successful people, and we shouldn’t take it personally or let someone bring us down.

25 Life Lessons from Our Favorite Celebrities | Mindy Kaling on bravery.:

7. Pink- Talking about the importance of self respect and knowing our self worth.

Self respect:

8. Dolly Parton- Reminding us that when things get tough, don’t turn your heart cold. Just be careful, watch yourself, but don’t let the world make you cold.

"I'll never harden my heart, but I've toughened the muscles around it." Dolly Parton #inspiration

9. Miranda Lambert- Because 99% of her songs are great advice for young girls and women.

Things to learn from Miranda Lambert... 12 is my favorite :):

10. Elle Woods- Because we can’t let one shitty situation or bad relationship define us.

Elle sought out the advice and support of other women.