Local News

March 9, 2014

Birthday-party art project a gift to young artists

Birthday party turns into art exhibit at NCCCA

PLATTSBURGH — Some celebrate birthdays with pool parties or at arcades or maybe a skating rink, but Jill Silver wanted to do something new for her daughter Alison’s 10th birthday.

“We’re limited in December on what to do for parties,” she said. “We’ve done it all.”

So Jill came up with an art party.

Fifteen children attended Alison’s birthday fete, ages 6 through 11, and they were all asked to bring along a photo of themselves. 

At the party, they received their own painter’s apron and a canvas to paint a self-portrait.


But that’s not all there was to it.

Paula Trahan, a retired SUNY Plattsburgh art professor, came to the party to teach the kids how to paint their self-portraits.

She was unsure if she would be able to reach out to all of them, as there were so many, but was pleased with the outcome.

“I was amazed at how quickly they picked up on what I was teaching them,” Trahan said.

Jill said it started out with drawing an oval and a cross through it to help with the alignment of the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. 

From there, the young artists added in details, some taking an hour and others spending the full three hours.

This was Trahan’s first time teaching younger students — except for her own children — so she had to plan how to go about it.

She enjoyed imparting knowledge to the kids that they normally wouldn’t learn until later on in their art schooling, such as the color wheel.


Olivia Gottschall, 10, who attends Momot Elementary School, said Trahan helped her a lot with the different shapes and where to place all the facial features.

“I liked (the self-portraits) because it was about me,” she said, “and I liked the colors we had and how we could make our own colors.”

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