Why Artists Should Paint Self Portraits
A self portrait refers to an artist’s own representation, either through a painting, a photograph, a drawing or
Self-portraits had been practiced back in the earliest times but it wasn’t until the mid 15th century that many
artists started to frequently portray themselves either as the key subject or one of the main characters in a
Exploring the Self Portrait
There are various reasons why artists paint self portraits. Because you’re your own model (and best model),
you’ll always be on time and whenever you’re ready to paint, you’ll be accessible. There’s no need to dress up for
yourself and you’re not obliged to share your painting practice with any other artist.
As a novice artist, painting a self portrait is one of the
first things you learn. It starts as a slow process, mainly concentrating on the under-painting, which is either
monochromatic or gray scale.
As you start painting your self portrait, you’ll notice a couple of things. Firstly, the whole experience can be
a psychological one. Either you’ll start to appreciate and enjoy staring at yourself, or like most artists, start
noticing your flaws.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, all the angles, shapes, shadows, and highlights that make up your face
will begin to become more apparent. This is the most crucial part when you’re starting your self portrait.
Most beginners or art students starting out on self portraits are advised to stare themselves in a mirror
(bathroom mirror is best) for about 15 minutes continuously. You shouldn’t have any make up on your face. Just look
at your plain face. Typically, artists first notice their flaws, or generally the features they don’t like. After
several minutes, your face will start to break into shapes. As you do your under-painting, this is what you want to look at.
Many artists get the urge to correct certain features on their face. Everything you see in the mirror about your
face should be in your self portrait because it is those features that help to portray your emotion, history and
personality to the audience that eventually views the portrait.
So why do most self portraits look serious? Most probably, if you represent the exact reflection in the mirror,
it will be a face that’s concentrating and studying. This definitely makes for a serious looking face.
Why artists should paint self portraits
Firstly, the mere reason that almost every artist has attempted a self portrait says a lot. Many times, self
portraits are a good way artists market their skills. It is also an excellent way for artists to practice their
The art of self portraits is a very revealing form of art. It is a way artists connect with self; an expression
of feelings and emotions. Artists are able to explore their inner turmoil through self portraits. Self portraits
offer artists a chance to stake a place in history.
Some of the most memorable self portraits in the history of art belong to Vincent Van Gogh. Most of his self
portraits, especially the ones of his last years on earth, are touted as the most emotionally revealing.
Being able to capture a moment in one’s life and eternally imprint that moment on canvas is the ultimate power
of a self portrait.
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