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Self image: making a self-portrait (1)



What will you wear ? Some artists dress up for their portraits; not wearing their everyday clothes. Some show themselves naked, others in overalls. What do the clothes you've chosen say about you? Are they an indication of your true self or are they a disguise?

Brian Griffin
by Brian Griffin
NPG x125281


Will you have props in your portrait that give a sense of your life, interests or personality? Justin Mortimer's 'You & Me', also makes a gentle art historical reference to paintings of Adam and Eve.

Will you be holding something or will you include objects or writing in a more abstract way suggesting they're not actually there but are symbolic of thoughts or feelings? For example: Lucy Jones 'Remove your Gaze', The artist writes of this work:

"The title is written in mirror writing on the painting. I have painted some of the props needed in my life. This painting is part of my exploration of the awkwardness and discomfort that the world can have for me, and conversely of my relationship with the world."

'You and Me'
by Justin Mortimer, 1994
© the artist

Remove your Gaze
by Lucy Jones
© the artist


There are also memento mori works suggesting that we consider the short time span of our lives on this earth and the Latin saying Ars Longa, Vita Brevis (which can be roughly translated as Life is short, but art will carry on); in these works skulls symbolize death.

Edward Collier
by Edward Collier
NPG 6069

'Me and my shadow'
by Ron Bowen, 1980


'Self-portrait aged 47'
by Liz Rideal, 2001


'John Dark - One for sorrow' by Sadie Lee, 1998

'John Dark - One for sorrow'
by Sadie Lee, 1998

Will there be a title? This work by Sadie Lee is called 'John Dark - One for sorrow' - the title a word play on Jeanne d'Arc and a tiny portrait of the martyr Joan of Arc can be seen hovering over the sitter's head. John Dark is also a man's name, but apparently the name of this sitter, implying an ambiguous gender. The single magpie is an omen of bad luck as in the children's counting game, 'One for sorrow, two for joy', and is a creature associated with stealing shiny things and possibly something significant for the artist.


How will you pose ? What are you implying by your body language? A pose can convey your body language and status.

George Chinnery
by George Chinnery
circa 1840
NPG 779

Angelica Kauffmann
by Angelica Kauffmann
circa 1770-1775
NPG 430


See Mirror, Mirror


What mood are you in? Will your facial expression indicate how you're feeling?

George Romney
by George Romney
circa 1765
NPG 2814

Mark Boxer
by Mark Boxer
NPG 5920(25)


Are you going to let people know that you are the artist?

Sometimes you can tell a self-portrait because the artist has depicted themselves working at an easel or on paper.

Or else joking around as with this image of the cartoonist Gerald Scarfe.

Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg
by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg
NPG 2493

Gerald Scarfe
by Gerald Scarfe
NPG 6431


... continue


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