The Self Portrait
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle
We are not an art school but every senior at KWS paints a self portrait. This not only represents the culmination of the Waldorf painting curriculum, but requires students to engage with the deep questions of identity: “Who am I?”, “How am I seen?” and, most importantly, “What is my place in the world?”
In high school, a new questioning about life and the personal search for truth and self-knowledge emerges and students are ready to confront good and evil, questions of destiny, evolution, and identity. Through the self-portrait project students are challenged to really look at themselves closely to create a physical likeness but to also look deeply at who they are in this world.
Our high school curriculum encourages students to look at themselves, reflect back on their lives and go out into the world and contribute to it from the sense of who they are.
When students graduate from Kimberton Waldorf School, they leave with not only a strong academic foundation but with a sense of who they are, the ability to think for themselves, and the confidence in their capacity to learn and do whatever they put their minds to.
“The senior portrait class represents the culmination of the Waldorf painting curriculum, making use of all the years that come before it in the pursuit of a meaningful piece of art that students and their families can take with them and cherish for years beyond graduation. Pulling from drawing tools introduced and sharpened in 9th grade, painting technique developed in 10th grade, and color theory explored in 11th grade, seniors work for about two months to produce a self portrait that expresses their inner spirit coming into harmony with the external realities of their body.
“The potential for such a portrait is boundless, and seniors are often at first a little daunted. First of all, there is the hard work of really looking at themselves, of being objective and making measurements about things that often times they don’t want to dwell on. Throughout the course, students have to learn to be comfortable with how they look, and in doing so they come to understand that they themselves are beautiful despite what they think of as imperfections. The second daunting task comes in dealing with the number of choices they must make. Do they paint a realistic skin tone, or one that expresses some quality of themselves more metaphorically? Do they choose a background that puts them firmly rooted in the world, or do they paint one that uses color to make it, as we like to say in the painting room, “pop”? How do they pose for their initial photo session, which determines the basic structure of their drawing? The best way to answer these questions is always to jump right in, to do something fearlessly and know that mistakes are where the good stuff happens — learning, growing, correcting. One choice leads to another, which leads to another, and eventually the final outcome looks as if it couldn’t have been painted any other way.” – Todd Stong, KWS Painting Teacher