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Of course, the icon of the POP movement is the Warhol portrait — his famous “Marilyn’s”. Warhol’s portraits were screen-printed—a possibility for these projects too. But there many different techniques for producing Warhol-style portraits suitable for every age.

The only question is: WHO? Whose portrait would make a good subject? Subjects can range from self-portraits (you could limit the colour choices in order to bring unity to the project) to any iconic person, animal or thing. Ask you students: what person or animal or cartoon character does EVERYONE recognize? Barack Obama? (The other Obama?) Homer Simpson? (Pauline Johnson?) Whose image has been ‘sold’ more than any other? As you might guess, choices are going to be very age dependent, which is a nice thing in itself.

Warhol for Wee Ones

I used this method at a Christmas party last year — the portraits were of penguins not Marilyn Monroe and even the 4 year olds wanted to produce several. In fact, what was supposed to be an activity to entertain the kids for an hour, while the adults talked, went on for a full 4 hours, some kids at the table the whole time. It takes a lot of preparation—which is pretty common for art projects of this age. The younger child, the more preparation.


This project had the following steps:

  • Decide upon a subject for your portraits with the kids.
  • Select colour or black and white pictures; use Photoshop or an photo-editing program to produce a grayscale version (one click). Now increase the contrast of the grayscale photograph until you have high contrast black and white image. I found that for younger children, it is better to leave in some lower contrast details, which in fact Warhol did in his famous Marilyn portraits.
  • Print the photographs, in the correct size, onto either heavy watercolor paper or onto silk fabric (you can buy printable sheets). I like the fabric option and so did the kids — it’s shiny and most kids have not painted on fabric.
  • If you have used an ink jet printer (which you must if you are using silk sheets) then you will need to “fix” the photograph so that it won’t dissolve in the next stage. Use either with Bubble Jet Fix (for fabric) or a commercial spray fixative (available at any art store).
  • If you have printed on silk, I find it very helpful to stablize the prints with iron-on interfacing — you know that white fabric that is in the collars and cuffs of your shirts. Cut peices the same size as your portraits and iron onto the backs of your portraits. This will make the silk behave like paper, which is makes painting it easier for young kids (next step).
  • Finally, it’s time for the kids — let them paint over the photographs using water colours (on paper) or silk paint (on silk) or any transparent fabric paint (you want the photograph to show through). For young children, show them some examples of how to illustrate the big areas to paint.
  • Spray again with fixer at the end.

Embellishments: Kids love them. For the “penguin portraits”, the kids added Pearl Ex powdered pigments to their paint. That gave some of the paint an incredible shine and iridescence. VERY Pop.


Photoshop Warhol Portraits

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This project is suitable for children 10-12, but no younger unless there is one-on-one supervision. It will still have to be done in small groups of no more than 4, even at this age. This is a good project for any parent who has some digital photography and editing experience, although the steps given are simple and explicit for a more novice Photoshop user.


If you print the final project of flat, acid-free rag paper, it will look much more like a silk-screen (than if you use photographic paper).


For instructions for this project see: Photoshop Warhol Portrait Instructions

Watercolour Warhol Portrait

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I loved the look of this Warhol — a bit different than the usual because of lovely watercolour effects. For any parent who has experience with watercolour, this looks like a GREAT project. There is no photo editing required for this idea — merely tracing and using watercolours. This comes from a great website for art lessons called artyfactory. artyfactory


The instructions for this project are found at: Pop Portrait Lesson



Collaborative POP Warhol

In this project, comes from the same website as above. It starts the same way, but the result is one large portraitto whch eveyone contributes a square to the final portrait. In some ways, this might be better for older students simply because they will need to understand about contributing an abstract design, but maybe I am being unneccessarily pessimistic about what the younger students can do.


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You'll find instructions on the same website:Collaborative Group Warhol Portrait


One possibility for a different media is to use collage — to visit a paper shop such a Paper-Ya on Granville Island. I keep thinking of Japanese Origami paper when I look at this Mona Lisa, and if the overall portrait was large enough, you could certainly cut out the facial features without two much trouble. You could also use watercolour papers that the students have painted — that is, have eveyone paint a number of watercolours at (concentrating on brights and darks as suggested in the instructions) and then using the painted papers for your collage.

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