Crafting Personalities

Tyler students developing their self-portraits

Second grade students at Tyler Elementary School (1001 G St. SE) have created mixed-media representations of themselves on burlap, with paint, simple embroidery and various collage materials.

Developed by art teacher, Amanda Swift, the project was a great way to begin a new year of learning. Students got acclimated to the art room, becoming familiar with its many tools and materials, while acquiring skills that will serve them well in the future. It also afforded the students an opportunity for self-reflection and self-awareness.

Ms. Swift wanted them to think symbolically about their personality and how colors and shapes have meaning that can be used to show a part of a person’s identity or passions. She shared “The Emotional Color Wheel: Elementary Edition: A Guide to Creating Expressionist Art for Children,” a book by Eric Gibbons, as a starting point.

As Gibbons points out “It’s easy to say you love someone or dislike something. You can even draw things to help people understand these feelings, like a heart of a frowning face. But artists can say the same thing with colors and shapes.”  Or, as Jaice put it: “…how colors can be used for personality if you feel a type of way.” The kids applied this concept to their self-portraits with Jett choosing “green for balance and purple for creativity.”

Self-awareness is an important component of social-emotional learning, an area where many children struggle. Examining their feelings and preferences through artistic endeavor is helpful in understanding themselves and their classmates. This point was not lost on the kids. 

London noted that she liked the project because “it really gave me the chance to show who I am and my personality,” Penelope said. “What I liked about the project is that I made it with my own mind.”

And Zyion picked blue “because the color of my jersey is blue.” As a final touch, students added tags with adjectives written on them, explicitly naming the attributes that best characterize them.

Ms. Swift invites all to “come see abstract personality portraits made by the brilliant and beautiful artists from Tyler Elementary School. Together, their use of colors, shapes, and materials to express who they are shines bright in a carefully crafted display of various art techniques.”

“Crafting Personalities” will be on view in the Young Artists Gallery on the ground floor at Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave, SE through the end of March. Images are also posted in a virtual gallery: -giving you no excuse for missing this insightful exhibit.