Self-Portrait Workshop – Paul Klee

Here is a sampling of self-portraits inspired by artist Paul Klee (including one in progress) from my last teacher workshop. Paul Klee (1879-1940) was a Swiss artist known for his highly individual, abstract style. His work was influenced by many different art movements, including Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism. This project uses squares of “bleeding tissue” for it’s vivid colors. If you haven’t tried this technique yet, you really must!! It’s so much fun…. even for adults! I originally found this idea on the always inspiring blog “Art Projects for Kids”. I changed it a little to focus more on realistic proportions, but check out both ways of doing it and see which you like best! Here’s how we did it:


  • 9×12 white construction paper
  • Black chisel tip marker OR black crayon
  • Mirror (for self-portraits)
  • “Bleeding” tissue paper in bright colors, cut into squares and rectangles
  • Watercolor brush
  • Water and containers


  1. After watching you demonstrate, have students draw a very basic self-portrait (see instructions in previous post). Encourage the use of stylized shapes, simple lines and minimal detail. I like to have Kindergarteners draw directly with their marker or crayon, but older students may choose to draw with pencil first and then trace over their drawing. The point is not so much to create a “realistic” portrait as it is to create a simple line drawing, so if the proportions, etc. are a little off, so much the better!
  2. Place a piece of tissue paper on your drawing and use a paint brush to paint over it with water. Repeat with contrasting colors until the entire paper is covered with pieces of wet tissue paper and no white paper is left showing.
  3. You may wait for tissue to dry before removing it, or simply take it off as soon as it has had a chance to bleed its color onto the paper.


  • Ask students what makes their self-portrait “abstract”?
  • Have students compare and contrast their self-portrait with those of other famous artists. Is their self-portrait more abstract or less abstract? Why?

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5 Responses to Self-Portrait Workshop – Paul Klee

  1. Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    This was an awesome activity! We did this as a family activity. I had 9×12 stretched canvas, we drew our own self portraits in permanent marker, found actual bleeding tissue paper (caution here!! not all bleeding tissue paper bleeds!!! Spectra brand is the BEST! I had a sample of multiple colors that worked great.), made sure we wrapped it around the sides and put it in the sun to dry. We found pebbles from the beach where we were staying and glued them to the edges. And that was it! They look great on our wall. Kids' ages: 4 & 7.

    If you get your tissue from Michaels test your tissue paper before hand as not all the colors bleed. I found this out the hard way and I work with special needs adults – results in behaviors not pretty!

  2. TeachKidsArt January 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Glad you enjoyed this project! Stretched canvas is a great idea! I always test my supplies before giving them to the kids when I try a new brand of anything…. I've also experienced the disappointment that occurs when a lesson doesn't work!!

  3. Carrie January 23, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    I have done this inspired by Modigliani and his elongated faces. I have had 2nd graders used pastel colored tissue for the face and bright colored tissue for the background. Using liquid starch as binder if the paper is not bleeding.

    • Cheryl Trowbridge January 23, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

      Those are great ideas, Carrie! Thanks for sharing them!!


  1. Session 3: Portraits next week | Kay Bishop's Blog - April 3, 2015

    […] they will glue colored tissue paper over it for a bright, abstract effect. See the original lesson here. (Preschoolers will participate in a simplified version of this lesson.) I held a […]