Smile for Leonardo!

Smile for Leonardo! lesson plan

Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated with faces. Look at faces like Leonardo did to make original self-portraits.

  • 1.

    Leonardo da Vinci, born in Vinci, Italy, on April 15, 1452, was truly a Renaissance Man. He was the most well-rounded artist, scientist, and scholar of his time. His artwork, as well as his inventions, are still admired today. A contemporary of Michelangelo and Raphael, da Vinci used his keen mind and observational skills to create masterpieces of art as well as inventions. His sketches explore human anatomy, flight, biology, and portraiture, as well as many other subjects.

  • 2.

    Leonardo was fascinated with human idiosyncrasies, and filled notebooks with his sketches of facial features. You can use Leonardo's observational techniques to create a self-portrait. Look at your own face in a mirror. Think about something that makes you really happy. You'll see a smile forming, and all of the changes in your face that accompany the smile: your cheeks rise, and your eyes may close slightly, creating laugh lines. These lines, which extend down from your nose on either side of your mouth, will deepen, and dimples may form. What other changes do you see?

  • 3.

    Now think about something that makes you sad. How does your face change? Try making your face show other emotions, such as surprise or indignation.

  • 4.

    On white paper, use Crayola® Washable Markers to draw your face showing one of the emotions with which you experimented. Look at your reflection in the mirror as you draw so you can include details.

  • 5.

    Color your portrait with Crayola Crayons.


  • Children research the life and artistic contributions of Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Students recognize the similarities in the works of da Vinci and his Italian Renaissance contemporaries, Michelangelo and Raphael.
  • Children observe and then draw facial details.


  • Leonardo was known for his drawings of his own inventions. He was particularly interested in flying machines, which didn't exist during his lifetime. Invent a flying machine that is different from anything you have ever seen.
  • Leonardo's <i>Mona Lisa</i> may be the most famous painting of all time. Part of the fascination with this painting lies in the model's enigmatic half-smile. Draw your version of the Mona Lisa, then create a thought bubble that shows what she's thinking a
  • Find out how many muscles are used when you frown and when you smile. Study facial muscles and diagram them.