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Body Self Portrait

The body is a tool that we use to explore the world around us. It grants us the ability to touch, see, smell, and hear all of the intricate beauties of life. Our body also takes on immense amounts of stress, whether it is physical, mental or emotional, our bodies are affected. It is important that we take care of them and understand how much we can learn from them.

Children are always touching things and getting into messes, and it's all simply because they are exploring and trying to make sense of what is around them. While I was in Thailand, I worked with an children from an orphanage. While we were there we completed a workshop that required them to trace their bodies and draw inside. We wanted them to focus on their eyes, mouth, ears, nose, etc. This allowed them to explore the creative process of drawing and creating a self portrait.

The reason I wanted to share this workshop with you is that it can be done with all ages, even adults. Working Outside the Box, an article written by Lynne Shallcross in 2011, describes how expressive art therapies are using this activity to "represent the inner turmoil, pain or traumas that may currently be negatively influencing one's life", It allows them to tell their embodied story via creative expression. Unlike the orphanage example, participants are asked to draw and paint their feelings, body parts, anything inside of the outline. This allows the participant to work through their life experiences and sense of self.

It is amazing that one activity can be used for so many different groups of people and can have different purposes as well.

To read the article:


Learning Objectives: Students will learn about the elements of the art form including:

  1. To play with line, colour and composition

  2. Free hand drawing

  1. Spatial organization: patterns, repetition

  2. The language of visual arts: shapes – rounded and angular

Students will learn the technical aspects of abstract painting:

  1. How to mix paint colours

  2. How to trace an object


  • Slim, Long sheets of paper

  • Markers

  • Acrylic Paint

  • Paintbrushes

Hook: The goal is getting connected! To realize that people, whether different genders, ethnicity or religious can all become one. I would regularly use a book but instead we are going to play a game called doctor mix up.

  1. One person will be the doctor, leave the room and wait to be called back in.

  2. Everyone else will form a circle and take the hands of two separate people.

  3. The ‘doctor’ will come back in and try to untangle them.

After a few rounds of the game we will come back together and have a quick discussion about how people are all the same.

  • We all have eyes

  • We all speak a language

  • We all have hearts

  • We all breathe


  1. Have everyone pair up into small groups of 2-4 people. Each person will have a separate piece of paper. The reason they are grouped together is so that they can help trace each other.

  2. Once each group has enough room, they will lay all of their papers side by side on the floor. One at a time, each person will lie down and strike a pose; meanwhile their group members will trace their silhouette onto the paper. (The goal is to have overlapping traces)

  3. After they are finished tracing they may add more lines if they so choose.

  4. Next they will paint abstract areas in different colours.

  5. Once complete they may be displayed for everyone to enjoy.


  • If students do not want to be traced or do not want to trace others they may complete the task with their hands and complete the activity alone. However, it is preferable that they work together.


  • If there is limited space another option could be done with hands. This would involve tracing both hands and it would be done repetitively on everyone’s paper. Since it is so repetitive it would take about the same amount of time as tracing each person.

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