2nd grade Roy Lichtenstein Self Portraits 2012

“Funny!” “Math!”  “Fashion is my kryptonite!”  “What’s up pizza!” These are some of the awesome phrases my amazing student artists filled their speech bubbles with in the Roy Lichtenstein Self Portrait art project.


Ah, nostalgia. Since this was the very first art project I created and taught during my first year of teaching, it makes me smile when I look back at all the sweet self portraits my second grade artists created. I shared a PowerPoint featuring several of Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings (on canvas and on the metal exterior of a BMW!), and we talked about how he used primary colors plus black and white in almost all of his paintings. We talked about how his art was deeply influenced by comics, and how certain elements of his art “went mainstream” (word explosions, Ben Day dots, etc.) and are seen lots of different places if you know what to look for.

I passed out the drawing paper, the pencils, the primary-colored markers, and a new art tool – a mirror. Each student got a mirror and drew their reflections as seen from the mirror. They were fascinated!

The goals for this portrait were to use only primary colors plus black and white, incorporate their own version of Lichtenstein Ben-Day dots in one or more parts of their portrait (…seeing several students banging their pencils as fast as they could staccato-style on their portraits let me know that I needed to clarify several right ways and one wrong way to Ben-Day dots – ha!…), and add stripes like Roy Lichtenstein used in his paintings.


Once the art students completed drawing their portraits, they added a word bubble of their choosing with a word that described them. We talked about how a thought bubble and an excited word explosion bubble would look very different. As the project progressed, we talked a lot about how a self portrait features the person’s face and part of their body, but that the background is just as important for adding details.

We talked about how dots and stripes can be colored or patterned differently, and how you could make something solid or give it a pattern.  We also talked about how you can choose to leave parts of your artwork white.  Balance was discussed frequently with each student as we talked one on one about their artwork.

I loved how their personalities shined through so brightly in this project. It’s definitely going into the rotation.  The next time I teach this, I’m going to make it a mixed-media project with the self portraits created with markers but the background either collaged or painted or maybe a combo.

Using markers only for the portraits and different medium or media for the background would also make the student vs. markers that kept running out less of a problem.  Older markers were a formidable foe for this project.  🙂  But the students persevered and I problem-solved, and we were all so happy that the students won in the end!


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