Easy Kehinde Wiley Art Project

Below you’ll find an easy step-by-step tutorial for a Kehinde Wiley art project. He is known for his naturalistic paintings of black people. This project combines his love of portraits and patterns to create fun new idea for a self portrait.

Who is Kehinde Wiley?

Kehinde Wiley (born 1977) is an African-American portrait painter based in New York City and known for his naturalistic paintings of Black people. 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 previous American presidents.

Objectives for this Kehinde Wiley Art Project

One way to pack lots of learning and creativity into a project is to start with some artists that have made ground breaking work.

This project could open with conversation about the incredible portrait that Kehinde made of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. It features a background filled with leaves, which as it turns out, symbolize significant points in Obama’s life.

This Kehinde art project will show students how to draw a natural background using metallic markers on colored card stock paper. (For some extra inspiration, try checking out this HYPEART website which features much of Kehinde’s art. There are some great examples of cropped views of faces with rich patterns all around them. It’s the look that inspired this particular project.)

The tutorial download includes a full size example of some line art flowers. The more flowers that are added to the background, the better. (Also, a great way to talk about LINES, one of the Elements of Art.) Metallic markers on colored paper are a treat to draw with and make a rich look that Kahinde’s portraits all have in common.

Afterwards, a cropped self portrait is drawn on a square sheet of paper. The tutorial directions shows students how to fill the paper in a way that forces them to draw large. It’s another way to avoid the habit of working small and instead, make a drawing that fills the entire page.

When the portrait drawing is complete, it’s traced with a black marker and the skin and hair are colored in. The portrait is cut out and glued on the the colorful background, and more flowers may be drawn to match on top of the shirt. It creates a look that honors the work of Kehinde Wiley. His amazing black portraiture paintings are something that can inspire us all!

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Flower Art for Kehinde Wiley Art Project

Would you and your students like a little help in drawing a flowery background for your portait? No problem, the download includes this full size drawing.


Directions for a Kehinde Wiley Art Project

Time needed: 1 hour

Step by step directions for a Kehinde Wiley art project

  1. Start with an 8.5″ square sheet of cream paper.

    Draw a large U shape.

  2. Add a neck and shoulders.

    They should fill and touch the corners of the paper.

  3. Draw two eyes near the top of the head.

  4. Draw the eyebrows, ears and the nose.

    Follow the standard facial proportions shown.

  5. Add a mouth centered below the nose.

  6. Draw your hair.

    Erase the lines inside.

  7. If your hair is longer, add it now.

    Do your best to make it look like your own!

  8. Trace with a marker and color.

    Skin crayon colors work best here.

  9. Choose 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of colored card stock paper.

    Draw LOTS of line art in the background with metallic markers. The more the better.

  10. Carefully cut out the portrait.

    Glue it on the card stock paper.

  11. Finish with more metallic marker flowers.

    Try to continue the background pattern onto the portrait drawing.

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