Michaela Delphin of Vineyard Haven celebrates the earth and all of its inhabitants. Above her self-portrait, a round face painted with hazel skin and pink lips against a jungle green canvas, the 12-year-old girl penned her “truth:”

“I believe that the animals and the environment shouldn’t be hurt because of the love of money.”

Lily McRae, 10, of Wellesley explains that a person must advocate his or her “truth,” or personal conviction, by example. “It’s not just saying, ‘You should turn off all the lights when you’re not using them.’ It’s doing what you’ve been saying you should be doing.” At Sense of Wonder Creations camp last week, Lily says, she and the other 25 campers identified their beliefs and then learned to embody them.

Sense of Wonder Creations, a program offering weeklong summer camps for children ages seven to 12, aims to foster creativity in its campers through the creative arts and social, cultural and environmental awareness projects. Director Pam Benjamin founded the nonprofit camp, held at her home in Vineyard Haven, to prevent children from losing creativity in adulthood.

Surrealist artist-turned-political-painter Robert Shetterly, a resident of Maine, visited the camp last week for a four-day workshop promoting honesty and integrity through art. Mr. Shetterly taught lessons in art and character, a seminar modeled after his award-winning book titled Americans Who Tell the Truth, a collection of portraits, biographies and the defining quotes of 50 truth-seeking Americans.

Mr. Shetterly’s portraits depict American truth-tellers living or dead, storied or obscure, like Rosa Parks, Emma Goldman, Mark Twain and Howard Zinn — all with illuminated faces, closed mouths and imposing eyes. Scratched into the earth-tone panel backdrops are thin, imperfect, white letters that spell out quotes once spoken by the subjects that reflect an unflagging devotion to integrity.

“What I wanted to do was really make you feel like you are in the presence of these people,” Mr. Shetterly says. “They are there, looking at you, and in a sense appealing to your integrity to listen and care and then act.”

Americans Who Tell the Truth is an educational project partly inspired by lies that Mr. Shetterly says the Bush administration fed to the American people about our motives to go to war in Iraq. “I was really driven by intense anger and hypocrisy,” Mr. Shetterly says, adding, “I had never been this kind of artist. [Political art] runs exactly opposite to everything I think art should be . . . which is not didactic . . . but I felt bound to do this.”

A Walt Whitman quote, hanging on the wall of Mr. Shetterly’s home art studio, also influenced the project: “This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone who asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown.”

“What [Walt Whitman] means by that is every breathing thing in the universe is essentially equal,” Mr. Shetterly says. “No one has to take off their hat and bow down to anything else ... and, much more than that, we have to support each other and the welfare of each others lives or we will no longer exist in the world.”

Fueled by Mr. Whitman’s words of democracy and his own desire to “do something positive” to combat what he felt to be a deceptive political atmosphere, Mr. Shetterly set a goal to paint 50 portraits of honest Americans — figures who, at whatever cost to themselves, have fought in the past and present to make America a more honest society. Now, he makes his living speaking about them.

It is the lessons etched in the portraits of those Mr. Shetterly paints that he now teaches to children in classrooms, camps and community centers across the country. And in sharing the legacies of others, he too has become a proponent of truth. At Sense of Wonder Creations, Mr. Shetterly encouraged each camper to join him.

In an effort to illuminate and promote their own ideals through art, the campers rendered not the faces and declarations of historical figures, as Mr. Shetterly does, but of themselves.

On the final day of the workshop, the youngsters displayed their art and guiding principles to their parents and each other.

A painting of a curly haired camper dressed in a floral shirt reads, “Some people say ‘You can only do what you think you can do,’ so I think I can do anything.”

“There is no such thing as a mess-up,” is marked boldly across another portrait.

“We should stop the war,” is penned in black marker atop the self-portrait of a yellow-haired, blue-eyed girl.

Set between a series of fantastical illustrations of a seagull, snake and fish are three words: “Explore new things.”