#LetsMakeWednesdays – Portraits

July 29, 2020

A portrait is a picture, drawing or painting of a person. It can include images of animals, clothing, places or colours that mean something to the person in the portrait. For thousands of years portraits have provided a space for people to say, ‘This is me’. Sometimes artists make portraits of other people, and sometimes they make a portrait of themselves. This is called a self-portrait. At the V&A Museum of Childhood we are thinking about all the ways we can have our visitors say ‘This is me!’. In our new Imagine Gallery, we want all young people to imagine themselves in new and exciting ways.

So, let’s make different types of portraits! We can imagine ourselves in wild and wholly new ways that all say ‘This is me!’

Don’t forget to share your work on #LetsMakeWednesdays

Let’s make a portrait

In this portrait the artist Arpita Singh has painted her neighbour Ayesha Kidwai. Can you see how there are lots of colours and items in the background, including six women dancing? She has a top with lots of flowers. Portraits show more than just what the person looks like – they include images, colours and symbols of things that are important to them.

Start by thinking about your portrait. Who do you want to make a portrait of? It could be a self-portrait (a picture you draw of yourself) or a portrait of a friend or family member. Think about some of the things that this person likes. How can you include that in your portrait? It could be a favourite sport, a pet, colours, or even their favourite outfit. You could add bold patterns or shapes. What does your portrait say about the person in it?

Ayesha Kidwai by Arpita Singh, 1988. Mus. no. IS.44-1988 © Image Victoria and Albert Museum

Let’s make a portrait series

Start by drawing a quick line drawing of yourself. This is a self-portrait. We suggest sketching lightly in pencil to start and then, when you are happy with you design, go over it in a darker pen.

Now, put a piece of paper over your portrait, and trace over your portrait 3 more times, so you have 4 identical copies of the same portrait, all done in dark pen. How can you make each portrait different? Maybe the backgrounds have different patterns in them.

Need some inspiration?

See how Chila Kumari Burman used colour and repetition to express herself in this series of multiple self-portraits in the 1990s:

28 Positions in 34 Years
by Chila Kumari Berman, 1992. Mus. no. E.2071-1997 © Image Victoria and Albert Museum

Let’s look at another series made years before. The photographer and artist Eadweard Muybridge took lots of photographs of a woman dancing. When these images are shown side by side you get a sense of her moving.

Using a pen and paper, try drawing your own portrait series of the same person moving around like Eadweard Muybridge’s pictures.

Woman Dancing by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. Mus. no.
PH.706-1889 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Let’s capture movement!

Let’s look at the image below by Jennie Baptiste. Can you see how it tries to capture the movement of the dancer’s hands?

Ragga Crouching by Jennie Baptiste, 1993. Mus. no. E.973-2010 © Image Victoria and Albert Museum

Portraits don’t have to be still. They can be an image of a person in action, such as playing a sport, dancing, jumping or even just making a fun pose.

Let’s make an action portrait. Start by thinking about the subject of your portrait. It could be you or someone you live with.

Next, you can either draw your portrait, or you can ask permission to use a phone or camera to take a photo. What movements do you want them to make? Should they be dancing? Or doing a hobby? Or maybe they can be jumping to look like they can fly!

How can you make it look like you are capturing them in motion?

Don’t forget to share your images using #LetsMakeWednesdays

0 comments so far, view or add yours

Add a comment

Please read our privacy policy to understand what we do with your data.


Join today and enjoy unlimited free entry to all V&A exhibitions, Members-only previews and more

Find out more


Find inspiration in our incredible range of exclusive gifts, jewellery, books, fashion, prints & posters and much more...

Find out more