Artist demonstration: how to create a narrative collage portrait

Make an artwork that tells your story! Follow artist Venessa Scott as she shows you how to create a self-portrait collage. She demonstrates how to take a journalistic approach by asking yourself questions about your identity and the story you want to tell. She shares tips on how to compose your collage and keep your artwork focussed on your key messages.


  • Hi, I’m Venessa. I’m an artist, and I’m going to show you how to make a narrative collage portrait.

    Narrative collage portraits allow the artist to express so much more about their sitter, their passions, their hobbies. All by using different materials.

    I’m going to show you how to make a narrative self-portrait, using a journalistic approach.

    I like this portrait of Claudia Jones. She was a journalist and political activist born in Trinidad and Tobago.

    After coming to the UK, she played an important role in founding the Notting Hill Carnival in London.

    If you want to give this a go, all you need is paper, an image of yourself, this could be drawn, or it could be a photograph.

    Some glue, scissors, and a collection of items that help to tell your narrative or your story. I’ve drawn this portrait of myself using a computer, which I’m going to use as the base of my narrative collage.

    You might have a sketch or a drawing of yourself too. Or you could use a printed photo of yourself.

    Now, I love big hairstyles, so I’m going to base my portrait on that.

    Now, before we start sticking anything down, it’s really important to think what you want, the key message of your narrative portrait to be.

    My key message is going to be about my heritage, which is British and Jamaican. Even though you know yourself really well, try to think like a journalist and ask yourself questions.

    What’s my favourite colour? What do I like to do? Where do I like to travel? What are my favourite pastimes?

    I want my narrative to focus on my love for nature. So, I think I’m going to cut out some of these shells. Now I’ve got everything that I want to include I’m going to start arranging the narrative. But I don’t stick them down yet. Not until I’ve arranged it exactly how I like it.

    There are no right or wrong ways to do this. Remember, you’re creating your own narrative. You can use other artistic techniques in your portrait too.

    You might want to draw in the background, or maybe put paint across your portrait.

    But it’s important to remember what message it is that you want to portray.

    Ok, I think I’ve got everything. I’ve finished sourcing and arranging, putting everything together to build up my narrative portrait. So I think it's time to start sticking.

    Now, this can be the tricky bit because it’s arranged so nicely that you might not want to ruin it.

    But my advice would be to go around each element and just put a dab of glue on the edges.

    You can think of it like a pin board where you’re just pinpointing a tiny bit of the image to keep in place. This helps it stay in place until you’re ready to glue everything down properly.

    So I’ve stuck down my background and I’ve stuck on my face and what I like to do is save one element to the very end, and I use this to blend the edge between the top of my head and the background. It just makes it a bit more seamless. And then I give it a bit of a shake, to make sure everything is stuck down.

    And that’s how I create a narrative portrait using collage. And now it’s your turn. Just have a go and have fun.

Learning objectives

  1. Explore some of the creative practices and techniques used by a portrait artist.
  1. Investigate taking a journalistic approach to creating portraits.
  1. Be inspired to reflect on your identity and communicate it through collage.

You will need

  • Paper
  • An image of yourself
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Printed or drawn images of objects that help to tell your story