After finishing each swirl of her curly hair, Camila circled her paintbrush around and around, forming eyes. For many children, the self-portrait stops here, at the outline.
I kneeled next to the young artist, holding a mirror in my hand, and said, “Camila, look at how the colors you are choosing match your hair, your eyes. I’m wondering, what paint will you use for your skin?” Camila looked at her reflection, then at the colored cups of paint before her. “None of these match me.” I nodded in agreement. “That’s a problem. Do you have any ideas?” Camila looked again at the paint. “I can mix colors! I think brown and white will make my skin.” I signaled to the mixing palette and Camila got right to work, alternating daubs of brown and white paint.
Camila swirled the colors together, resting the palette above her arm to compare the paint with her caramel skin. A few minutes later, Camila’s eyes met mine with a smile,
“I found my skin tone.”
At morning meeting, Camila told her story. It was a familiar one to the four-and-five-year-olds, who voiced similar experiences in a grand conversation.