According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary on-line, a self-portrait is defined as "a portrait of oneself done by oneself." Self-portraits were done by ancient Egyptian and Greek artists, as well as Leonardo Da Vinci, Diego Velasquez, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and many other artists. Self-portraits are a marvelous way to practice portraiture, as well as a way to experiment with media, styles, and techniques. It is also an effective way to advertise the skills and style of the artist to potential clients. In addition, the model works for free!
As part of my Bachelor of Fine Arts coursework, I did a couple of self-portraits in various media and techniques. I sketched the pencil and the blind-contour marker drawings above circa 1980. I also composed, took and developed the picture for the BFA Exhibit poster below.
In the last couple of years, I've I've been working on self-portraits once again. However, now I use them in a prayerful way as I explore who I am as an artist, a man, and an artist. Frida Kahlo, one of my all time favorite artists, was one of the artists who used self-portraits in this way. She explored amongst other issues, her culture, her health, and her rocky relationship with her husband, Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. The following self-portrait, which I did in my art journal in 2007, is an example of a prayer (5.5"x8.5" Mixed Media).
The following two self-portraits, I did in a 2.5"x3.5" sketch pad back in February and April. For both of them, I created water color backgrounds ahead of time. This helps eliminate the "blank page creative block syndrome" that artists can encounter sometimes. Just as in the previous example, they challenge the definition of a self-portrait, since they are very stylized. The "Prayer Works" doesn't even show an actual portrait. Instead, it features a tracing of part of my hand! I even used a stamp of some leaves that I really liked.
During the last few weeks, I've been making Artist Trading Cards. (No, I don't intend to trade these two cards. They are strictly self exploratory.) The first one I created a few weeks before I dropped my oldest daughter in college - I don't think I need to elaborate on the reason for the title. It's a collage of magazine images that were coated in a thin layer of gray acrylic gesso, and then altered with markers. The last one, I did this weekend. It's definitely a blend between collage and realistic drawing. The image and the message are both clear and to the point of the way I've been feeling.
As you can see, portraits have come a long way. They are not necessarily just about what you look like, but also about who you are as an artist and a person. If you want to further explore these ideas, I highly recommend The Journal Junkies Workshop and Mixed-Media Self-Portraits. You can find links to these books in "My Recommendations" widget by Amazon. If you have any samples of your work you'd like to share, please comment below, and attach a link to your page. I always like to see what other artists are doing. Blessings!