Donna’s Day: A Father’s Day portrait of pop


So many family photos hide in our computers, scrapbooks and photo albums. Some make it into frames on a dresser or piano. But how about taking a step beyond photos and display an original portrait on a wall in your home?

This Father’s Day, surprise Dad with a present he’ll love — a portrait drawn by your child. OK, so, it sounds like a unique gift idea, but how do you draw Dad?

I asked Cynthia McGovern, art specialist at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, for a few portrait-drawing tips she uses with her students. She suggests that you encourage your child to feel their face and head contours, nose, cheekbones, eyebrows and ears with their fingers. Together, talk about the location of these features.

Combining the tactile, the visual and a little discussion builds on understanding of shape and position. Plus, there is the added benefit and fun of sharing time to look — really look — at one another.

Now transfer that knowledge of “face basics” to your own drawing of Dad.

Here is how.

  • Take a photo of Dad from the waist up to use as inspiration for the portrait.
  • On the matte side of an 8-inch-by-12-inch sheet of poster board, sketch Dad’s portrait with a pencil. Be sure to include his neck and shoulders so that it doesn’t look like a floating balloon head! Also, add pupils looking in a particular direction when drawing the eyes. For fun, add Dad’s favorite pet, or put a hat on his head of a favorite team or past-time.
  • Go over the pencil lines with a color crayon. Press heavily.
  • Use a standard Crayola water-color paint kit to paint the portrait. Be sure the paint is very watery so that it appears transparent on the poster board. Don’t worry if the paint goes over the crayon lines, as it adds to the natural look of the portrait. Let dry. (Or, simply color with crayons and use watercolors for the background).

Frame it up!

Make and decorate a frame made from a cereal box:

  • Cut a large cereal box into two squares or rectangular shapes larger than the portrait you are framing with one piece slightly larger than the other.
  • The larger of the two pieces is the frame and the small piece is the backing. Cut out the center of the frame to leave an opening for the art to show.
  • Put a few globs of glue randomly on the frame front, and affix pieces of pasta shells, wheels, rotini, elbows, etc. For a jazzy look, an adult may spray it with gold paint outside. Let dry, then attach the portrait to the backing with tape. Place the frame on top. Tape in place.

Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”

©2019 Donna Erickson

Distributed by King Features Synd.

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