Kehinde Wiley is a contemporary Nigerian-American painter known for his distinctive portraits. His subjects are often young black men and women, rendered in a Photo Realist style against densely patterned backgrounds. He was commissioned in 2017 to paint a portrait of former President Barack Obama for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which has portraits of all the U.S. presidents.   

Studying self-portraits is important for art students of all ages. Learning to draw your own face while looking in a mirror is the epitome of drawing from observation. Like learning to sight-read music, being able to synthesize and interpret what the eye sees–and draw on paper what exists in three dimensions–is fundamental to building drawing skills. 

This project will challenge you to draw honestly while also encouraging self-expression. Let’s look deep within our souls and create a one-of-a-kind self-portrait, because after all, “Portraits are about revealing aspects of an individual,” according to Kehinde Wiley. Families at home together can each create their self-portrait and then reveal and discuss them. What does the background represent about the artist? What emotions does the face express? 


-2 pieces of white paper
-Medium of choice: markers, colored pencils, watercolors, etc.
-Mirror, or an image of yourself


 Step 1: Look at yourself

Take a closer look at your face for two minutes.


Step 2: Draw your head

Draw an oval shape for your head and a dot right in the middle of the head. Then with a pencil lightly draw a vertical guide line through the dot and then horizontal guide line through the dot. The horizontal guideline is the line where you will place your eyes.

Step 3: Locate eyes, nose and chin

Divide the space between the eyes and the chin in half and make a small mark. This is where you will draw your nose. Make another small mark halfway to a third of the way between the nose and chin. This is where you will draw your mouth.

Step 4: Draw facial features

Draw in your eyes along the horizontal guide line. Draw your nose and mouth, making sure that the bottom of each is located at the mark you made in step 3. Don’t forget about your eyebrows.

Step 5: Draw your ears

Draw your ears making sure your earlobes line up with the bottom of your nose and tops of ears line up with eyebrows.

Step 6: Draw your neck, shoulders and hair

Draw your neck, shoulder and hair, adding things that make it really look like you—hairline, hair style, glasses, etc.

Step 7: Color your portrait

Erase the guide lines and color the self-portrait with colored pencils, crayons or whatever you like.

Step 8: Finishing touches

Cut out your self-portrait and set aside.



Part 2: Create a Patterned Background

Step 1: Draw background

With a pencil, draw a floral, leaf or geometric pattern on white paper. This can be as complicated or simple as you’d like and the pattern can be anything that represents you or your style.




Step 2: Color background

Color the pattern with any medium you’d like. If you are using paint, let your background dry completely.



Step 3: Glue

Glue cut-out portrait to the patterned background. You now have a one-of-a-kind Kehinde Wiley inspired self-portrait!


Learn more about Kehinde Wiley here.

Share your artwork with us! Tag us on Instagram and Facebook, so we can see your creations come to life.

Created by Andrea Minobe

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