Self Portraits: Frida Kahlo and Preschoolers

Frida Kahlo as a young woman

Today is Frida Kahlo’s birthday. Born in 1907, Frida spent much of her life Redefining Girly. She survived polio. She attended classes to prepare for med school during a time when most women would not have attended college. She lived through a horrible bus accident that left her with life threatening injuries. It was during the healing process from these injuries that she became an artist. Much like her art, Frida lived a life that was intense, vivid, and brilliant.

My favorite quote of hers is: “I paint self portraits because I am the person I know best.”

I think there is power in that statement. How many of us, or our daugthers, really KNOW who we are? Do you know yourself better than you know your child, spouse, or best friends? I don’t mean who we wish we could be, or what we would rather be doing. Not our role in our family, our group of friends, or our class at school — Who we are as an individual in a world full of others trying to figure out the same thing. What do you stand for? What are you passionate about? What makes you see beauty? What makes your heart sing?

If these questions have you drawing a blank, I encourage you to find the nearest preschooler and spend the afternoon with them. Children around the ages of 3-5 years old are by nature, self-confident. You’ll often find they know quite a bit more than you do, will let you know that, and can be at times full of themselves. Their needs are met. Their job is to simply wake up, launch themselves from bed, and discover. They are allowed to be a shark at the breakfast table, and by mid-afternoon morph into a bear on a raft who lives in a cave in the Wiley Swamp. A vibrant imagination begets a vibrant life.

There is beauty in living a life that is vibrant. My preschool aged daughter reminded me of this one afternoon while she finger painted on our back porch. In bold and generous amounts of bright red, blue, yellow, and green paint she created a picture that was not only vivid in color, it’s composition had an impact on me.

“This is really colorful. What is it a picture of?” I asked her, focusing on the energy I could see transferred to the easel.

“It is me. I am beautiful. I am a brave knight” she replied. It was like a resume for a four year old.

I smiled and looked down at her, and then realized she had also painted her hands and forearms and feet and shins. You know, for the full body experience. People are more than who they are on paper.

What would YOUR self portrait look like? How well do you know yourself?

What does your self portrait look like?

Want to help your daughter create her own self portrait?

Ages 0-3: Butcher paper, finger paint, fat brushes (or toothbrushes), floorspace, and LOTS of clean up rags is all you need. Remember that finger paint can also go on piggies toes.

Ages 4-7: Have your girl lay down and trace an outline of your daughter with sidewalk chalk, then have her fill in the blank canvas as she tells you about how neat she is.

Ages 8-11: Set up an easel outside with paints or oil pastels, and leave a post it on a blank sheet of paper that says “Show me who you are”

Ages 12+: Sit side by side and look at family photos together, discussing the similar traits the women in your family share (both look and personalities). Create a self portrait with colored pencils, clay, a poem, or a list of words.

And by all means, color outside of the lines!