Amoako Boafo : Whole Self, Self-Portraits

Create a self-portrait using a scratchboard and scratching tools
The self-portrait should show something about them besides just what they look like on the surface. Use the following planning sheet to reflect upon what you want to include in your self-portrait. ‍
All Ages
Painting, Portraits, Contemporary Art
Three 45-minute classes
Amoako Boafo : Whole Self, Self-Portraits



Students will:

  • Interpret the work of Amoako Boafo
  • Use symbols and colors to signify connections to their identities
  • Define and explore personal and cultural identity
  • Explore their internal and external identities
  • Create photographic self-portraits
  • Transfer photographs to a scratchboard sheet
  • Apply a variety of marks to create visual depth

Standards Alignment



  • Student Self-PortraitPlanning Sheet [DB1] 
  • Camera (or cellphone camera)
  • Copy Machine
  • Graphite paper (recommended) or large stick of graphite
  • Drafting dots or drafting tape
  • Pencils
  • Scratchboard paper
  • Scratch art tools


  • Mat board


In this project, you will create a self-portrait using ascratchboard and scratching tools. The self-portrait should show somethingabout you besides just what you look like. Use the following planning sheet toreflect upon what you want to include in your self-portrait.

Day 1


1.  Guided practice

  • What do you think the subject of this portrait is saying to the viewer?
  • What do the clothes of the person tell you about who they are?
  • Does the book tell you something about the person?
  • What else do you see?


2.  To better acquaint students with Amoako Boafo and his artwork, have them read the following interview with Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński in Bomb Magazine: [DB1] 

While students are reading the article, have them jot down or use a highlighter to capture the most important points in the article. Have students consider:

  • How would Amoako describe the people he likes to paint?
  • Where does Amoako get inspiration for his art?
  • What is the significance of the gaze in Amoako’s work?
  • What are the most distinctive qualities of an Amoako Boafo painting?


3.  Complete Student Self-Portrait Planning Sheet


4.  As soon as students complete their planning sheet, take their photos


        a.  Remind students to refer to their responses on the Self-Portrait Planning Sheet as they make decisions about how to present themselves in the photo

        b.      Before the next class session, print out all student photographs to fill an 8 ½” x 11” sheet of paper using a black & white printer

Day 2


Transfer photos to scratchboard


1.      Depending on the materials chosen, there are two techniques to transfer photographs to the scratchboard.

         a.      If you are using a large stick of graphite, students will need to scribble on the back side of the photocopied portrait —being sure to press hard and completely cover the back of the photocopy with graphite.




         b.      If using graphite paper, have students make a paper sandwich by first laying down the scratchboard paper – clay side up. Next place the graphite paper on top of the scratchboard, making sure the darker side is facing down. Finally, place the photocopy portrait on top of the graphite paper with the image facing up. Tape all papers down to the work surface using either drafting dots or pieces of drafting tape.


2.      Trace over the lines, shapes, and details of the student portraits by going over them with a hard, sharp pencil. Students will want to press firmly to ensure the lines transfer to the surface of the scratchboard.


3.      Carefully remove one corner of the portrait or graphite paper from the scratchboard. Before completely removing everything, have students ensure their marks transferred. If they pressed hard enough, they should be able to see the lines on the surface of the scratchboard. If not, have them try again, pressing a little harder with their pencil. If the lines transferred, but are difficult to see, students can use a white or metallic pencil to make the lines easier to see.


4.      Using a scratching tool, carefully scratch away the black layer of the scratchboard to reveal the color beneath the surface. Students want to carefully consider the patterns and designs used to make marks. Below are some examples of various textures that can be incorporated to add depth and interest to the self-portraits. For best results, students should use three different types of marks to complete their drawings.


NOTE: It is advised that students practice different mark making on a scrap piece of scratchboard before working on the final piece.

Day 3

Complete portraits

Mount on mat board