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?
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 Justin Mortimer's 'You & Me', also makes a gentle art historical reference to paintings of Adam and Eve.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.
by Edward Collier
'Me and my shadow'
by Ron Bowen, 1980
'Self-portrait aged 47'
by Liz Rideal, 2001
Sarah Lucas ('Self-Portrait with Skull')
by Sarah Lucas
'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.
by George Chinnery
by Angelica Kauffmann
What mood are you in? Will your facial expression indicate how you're feeling?
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
by Gerald Scarfe
Become a Member
Enjoy access to special events, discounts on the Gallery online shop, supporters’ updates and much more
Bringing people together by sharing the portraits and stories of the men and women who have shaped our nation.
Sign up to receive information on exhibitions, collections and activities of the National Portrait Gallery, including special offers, shop products, and exclusive competitions.
- Edward Collier (NPG 6069)
- George Romney (NPG 2814)
- Angelica Kauffmann (NPG 430)
- Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg (NPG 2493)
- George Chinnery (NPG 779)
- Mark Boxer (NPG 5920(25))
- Gerald Scarfe (NPG 6431)
- Sarah Lucas ('Self-Portrait with Skull') (NPG P884(8))
- Angus McBean as Neptune (NPG x39301)
- Brian Griffin (NPG x125281)