24 October, 2023

Examining the importance and fun of portrait art at Northbridge

Examining the importance and fun of portrait art at Northbridge-Examining the importance and fun of portrait art at Northbridge-photo_2023-10-24_14-42-33
Examining the importance and fun of portrait art at Northbridge

By Mike McCann
Primary Visual Arts Teacher

Portraiture, or the art of creating portraits, has been around for at least 5000 years – dating back to ancient Egypt. Since then, artists from every culture and background have created a wide variety of portraits, using every imaginable medium – from simple pencil sketches, to paints, to sand, to recycled plastics and everything in between. All of which we explore at Northbridge International School Cambodia.

Why are artists and art lovers so drawn to portraits? Before cameras and selfies – portraits were the only way of recording the appearance of someone. But portraits are more than just recording appearances – they also are able to do so much more – from capturing history to giving us insight into the human experience. Maybe because we are able to see the common traits that make us all humans and to see a visual representation of deep emotions.


For artists, portraits offer such a wide range of interpretations – from hyper realistic representations to more abstract, symbolic depictions. Even artists with limited skill or experience can make interesting portraits. 



A vital and interesting sub-genre of portraiture is self-portraiture. Self-portraits are often very revealing and can provide artists with a look into their emotional state, their self-esteem, and their identity.   


Portraits and Self-Portraits at NISC Primary 

In Primary art classes at NISC, Kindergarten – 3rd Grade students began the school year with the “Who We Are” PYP unit. The focus for these grades were portraits and self-portraits – with varied concepts, skills, and mediums based on their ages and developmental levels. Students explored the elements of art including line, shape, form, space, texture, value, and color, such as the work above by Oskar in KG. They made observations, explored techniques, and reflected on their progress. Grades 4 and 5 will create portraits and self-portraits later in the school year.  


Practicing at Home 

Portraits and self-portraits, like any form of art, require practice. Artists need to put in the time and need to make a lot of “mistakes” along the way. Only with practice will an artist find their style and their voice. The beauty of portrait art is that it does not require the best, most expensive art supplies. A piece of paper and something to draw with (pencil, pen, crayon) is the perfect place to start. Of course, if young artists are drawn to other mediums like paint or charcoal or oil pastels, then they should be encouraged as well. 


How Can Parents Help? 

Parents can help and support their children in the arts by encouragement, positivity, and by providing them with the necessary materials. A sketchbook is a great way for students to keep their artwork so that they can see their development and reflect on their progress. There are many art tutorials available online via YouTube. Students should focus on learning basic skills before trying more advanced techniques.