Powerful Kehinde Wiley Portraits Grade K-3


Kehinde Wiley Portraits

Art Lesson Plan by Francesca Levy



Kehinde Wiley is a Black painter who was born in Los Angeles, California. His father is from Nigeria and his mother is African American. He is most well-known for his portraits of Black people against colorful and patterned backgrounds. In 2017, he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Barack Obama for the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Wiley is inspired by European Old Master portraiture, and has the subjects of his paintings pose in similar poses to Old Master style portraiture. Wiley combines this style of portraiture with inspiration from French Rococo design, African Textiles, Islamic Architecture and Urban Hip-Hop.

Wiley’s fresh take on an old style of portraiture is meant to include Black people in the narrative, who were left out of traditional European paintings. Many of Wiley’s portraits are of people Wiley met while walking around his neighborhood in New York and Los Angeles. He would ask the subjects of his paintings to assume the poses in Old Master portraits and paint them in these poses while wearing their street clothes. Many of the poses Wiley chooses exude power and are reminiscent of portraits of European royalty. In doing so, Wiley makes a statement by placing the Black members of his neighborhood in a position of power.


The student will be able to use pattern to create a portrait in the style of Kehinde Wiley.



Anchor Standard #1
-Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Anchor Standard #3
-Refine and Complete artistic work.

Anchor Standard #5
-Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.



Use crayons and watercolor paints to accomplish the oil resist technique for your background. Then, glue a picture of a yourself in a powerful pose overtop of it to complete your Kehinde Wiley portrait.


Step 1:
Using crayons or oil pastels, divide the paper into four sections. Before you start drawing, decide if you want to use COOL colors (blue, green, purple) or WARM colors (red, orange, yellow) for your artwork. Once you have made your choice, fill each section with a pattern. Kehinde Wiley often uses natural patterns, such as floral patterns, for his portraits. Look closely at the work of Kehinde Wiley and choose patterns that are influenced by his style. Use a different color for each section, staying within warm or cool colors.

Kehinde Wiley Portraits Art Lesson Plan


Step 2:
Using the oil resist technique, use watercolor paints to paint over each section. Be sure to use enough water so that the paint doesn’t stick to the crayon or oil pastel patterns. Use a different color for each section, staying within warm or cool colors.

Kehinde Wiley Portraits Art Lesson Plan


Step 3:
Take photos of each student and then print in color or black and white. Kehinde Wiley painted his subjects in powerful poses, have students pose in a way that makes them feel powerful and confident.

Kehinde Wiley Portraits Art Lesson Plan


Step 4:
Cut out the photo and glue to the middle of the paper.

Kehinde Wiley Portraits Art Lesson Plan


*Don’t forget to put student name and year on the drawing, at least one inch away from the outside border.*

To use this lesson as an art fundraiser, go to http://displaymyart.com/fundraising-info/

Required Materials

  • 01Crayons or Oil Pastels
  • 02Watercolor Paints
  • 03Paintbrush
  • 04Display My Art Drawing Paper
  • 05Photo of Student
  • 06Scissors
  • 07Glue
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