Frida Kahlo Art Project
Frida Kahlo's paintings are bold, vibrant, expressive and a visual representation of her emotions at the time. In this project, we will show you the steps to take in order to create your own version of a Kahlo-style painting.
This exercise uses symmetry and shape to build up a likeness of Frida Kahlo, a technique similar to the Mammoth Memory proportions of a face.
The technique involves dividing a sheet of paper into four with a pencil and ruler to use as a guide. Notice throughout how important symmetry is when doing this. Both sides of the face are the same throughout until you reach the background.
Once you have the cross visible, here are the simple steps in order to build up Kahlo's recognisable image in stages.
Start by marking out a simple outline of a head, from the chin up to the line of a fringe, around the centre of the paper, as shown below.
Add a neck and shoulders to this, going from either side of the chin to the bottom corners of the paper. As Frida Kahlo was famous for her image as well as her art, add a necklace or an iconic Kahlo outfit.
Draw the lines of the hair. Kahlo's hair was often tied up, away from the neck, and this is the style we are going to copy.
Stopping the hair at this point allows us to add the instantly recognisable flowers Kahlo wore in her hair. Add flowers of different sizes across the head. It doesn't matter which flowers you add – she was seen with numerous floral displays in her hair.
Now that the outer edge of the face is complete, the 'Mammoth Memory proportions of a face' technique is applied.
Using the guidelines you lightly drew on the page at the start, draw in the eyes on the central horizontal line. Remember, the width of the face can be divided into five in order to place the eyes correctly.
Having the eyes correctly placed makes it easy to add the nose and mouth. Remember, the nose tip ends halfway between the chin and the eye line and the nose is as wide as the centre gap between the eyes. The bottom lip sits halfway between the nose and the chin.
As well as the nose and mouth, add the features characteristic of Frida Kahlo – the over-accentuated monobrow and some earrings to represent the Mexican culture and fashion.
The main elements of the drawing are complete. Colour can now be added to this drawing to improve it further. Use oil pastels or paints to get the rich, vibrant energy of Kahlo's work.
If you wanted, you could stop the process here and you would still have an artwork representing that of Frida Kahlo.
In order to add more references to the artist, we can add to the background.
When thinking about the backgrounds of Kahlo's work, there are two main things to take into consideration: symbolism and colour.
Symbolism: In many of her paintings, there are strong references to her life and culture. Mexican plants and animals featured strongly in her work, such as the monkeys and parrots she kept as pets.
Colour: Looking at Kahlo's work from a technical point of view, she was clever with colour when it came to her backgrounds, too. She used blues and greens a lot in the scenes, these cooler colours allowing the brighter, warmer oranges and reds in the face to shine in comparison. This is because the blues and greens are opposite the reds and oranges on the colour wheel.
Taking these into consideration, draw a plan for your background around the face. We have opted to show Kahlo's pet monkeys and large leaves in our background, similar to many of her paintings.
As with Kahlo's work, use colours in the background that contrast with the flesh tones. If you have used warm oranges and reds for the face, opt for blues and greens in the background. The animals can look as realistic as you can make them, as Kahlo's did.