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Frida Kahlo: A Look in the Mirror
(The Art of Self-Portraiture):
Lesson Three
Lesson 1
The Research
Lesson 2
Sharing The Knowledge
Lesson 4
Mini Museum


Lesson 3

Instructional Objectives
The students will:

  • take note of details in famous artwork found on the Internet
  • draw a self-portrait
  • paint a self-portrait using the art tools appropriately, and mixing and blending tempera paints
  • critique their own artwork
  • talk about their artwork with others
Time Required
Two 45 min. - 1 hr. periods, plus independent work time.

Advance Preparation
Have a Hot List, collection of Frida Kahlo's Self-Portraits as examples, or several books with Frida's self-portraits ready and available. Make sure you have all the art materials you are going to need, and that you have figured out the management of the materials.

Materials/Resources Needed
Computer with Internet connection.
Collection of Frida Kahlo's self-portraits in the form of a page with images from the Internet, bookmarked sites or images in books.
Paper (12" x 18"), pencils, art gum erasers, and paints (watercolor or tempera) for painting the self-portrait.

Self-portrait: painting, drawing, etc. of one self, done by one self.
Decoration: anything used for decorating: ornament.
Decorate: to add something to so as to make more attractive; adorn; ornament.
Outline: a line bounding the limits of an object, showing its shape; contour line.
Highlights: a) a part on which light is brightest     b) a part of a painting, photograph, etc. on which light is represented as brightest     c) the representation or effect of such light in a painting.
Sketch: a simple rough drawing or design, done rapidly and without much detail.
Blend: to mix or fuse thoroughly, so that the parts merge and are no longer distinct.


  • Show the students a collection of Frida Kahlo's self-portraits. Use books or go to sites with samples of her work such as:                                 Orazio Centaro's Art Images on The Web http://ocaiw.com/catalog/index.php?lang=en&catalog=pitt&author=464&page=1                   (Select the self-portraits only. Preview the site before use with students. Advertisements at bottom may not be appropriate. I chose to use aWord document that I prepared of Frida Kahlo's Self-portraits)
  • Discuss her style, and how she usually includes her pets in her self-portraits, and/or has ribbons, banners or notes on them as well.
  • Tell the students that they will be making a self-portrait in the style of Frida Kahlo. Provide the students with the necessary paper (I like to use 12" x 18"), pencils, art gum erasers, and hand mirrors.
  • Have the students look at themselves in the mirrors and to begin by drawing the basic shape of their face lightly. TIPS: Tell the students to draw their face slightly larger than real life, or to draw big (in proportion to the paper). They will be able to erase the unnecessary lines when done.
  • After they have the basic shape drawn lightly they can look in the mirror and try to make the shape of their face more accurate (goes in a bit by the eyes, cheeks stick out a little, etc.)
  • Continue by drawing the facial features and ears. TIP: If you divide the face into thirds with horizontal lines, you can see that for the most part the facial features fit within the middle third, the eyebrows or eyes being on the top line, and the lips at the bottom line. Erase lines afterwards. Ears usually are from eyes to mouth. Neck, shoulders and hair are next.
  • After the students have drawn themselves have them add their pets, favorite animals or flowers, or any other appropriate decoration. TIP: if there is a lot of space at the top of the paper the students can draw a banner with their name.
Another day or at a later time:
  • (This can be done another day if desired) When the pencil drawing is done the children can paint their self-portraits with their chosen medium. I had my students use tempera paint, because it is a visual arts standard in my state for this year to use and blend tempera paint. TIP: start by painting the flesh. Generally speaking paint starting from the inside and head outwards to avoid smudging. Do a demo for the students before allowing them to begin their work.
  • When the self-portraits are done have the students share it with the class by showing it, talking about it and saying one thing they don't like about their work and two that they do (Visual Arts Standard).
*Students may need several days to complete the painting.


  • Examine and discuss self-portraits by Frida Kahlo
  • Make a self-portrait in the style of Frida Kahlo
  • Critique one's own work
The students can write about why they chose the pets and decorations they added to their self-portrait, and why they used the colors they did.

Answer the following question: If you could interview Frida Kahlo what would you ask her, or what would you say to her?

Teacher observation first: did this student learn something new? Did their work improve compared to previous work? etc.

Rubric For Self-portrait Painting

Completed task?
yes      no
Does the painting include all necessary body parts? (nose, ears, shoulders, etc.)
yes      no
Does the painting include the student's pet or favorite animal?
yes      no
Does the painting include other decorations?
yes      no
Is the paper filled with color? (no plain white paper spots)
yes      no
Is it neat? 
yes      no
Did the student use the colors appropriately?
yes      no
Did the student blend colors?
yes      no

Rubric for Sharing (critique)

Did the student share one thing he/she doesn't like about his/her work?
yes      no
Did the student share two things he/she does like about his/her work?
yes      no
Did the student speak loud and clear?
yes      no
Did the student show the portrait in a way that all could see the work (and without blocking his/her own face)?
yes      no

The teacher can assign points to the items to record a grade.

Illustrative Materials
Hot List of sites for the students to find examples of Frida's work.
Frida Kahlo's Self-Portraits Word Document.

Student Work Samples

Work in Progress
Museum Pieces


Jessica N. Rivera




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