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How To Draw A Self-Portrait

Updated on September 16, 2016

Drawing a self-portrait can be one quite challenging. As someone who has grown more comfortable, and interested, in sketching landscapes over the years, re-entering the world of drawing people has been a challenge. I drew myself a couple of times in high school, but ever since I have been more into drawing landscapes and animals. Last year I drew a portrait of my nephew, and I once again I am working on my technique of drawing people. This time around I decided to draw a self-portrait because I can take pictures and use the mirror as a reference. There are certain basic things I remember from my art classes when it comes to drawing people, such as how the head is oval shaped and the eyes are about half-way down the face. Reading books on basic drawing instruction are useful when you first start drawing self-portraits, or when you decide to draw people for the first time in a decade or so.

This self-portrait was created with colored pencils, which is one of my favorite mediums.
This self-portrait was created with colored pencils, which is one of my favorite mediums. | Source

Books To Teach You About Self-Portraits

To refresh my memory on drawing the human figure, I read a few drawing books. As always I recommend your library, second-hand bookstores, and eBay all as sources for finding useful drawing books to reference.

Photographing The Phases of A Sketch

I always photograph the phases of the sketch because I like to see how my work evolves from start to finish. Also, I use photographs of my sketch in various phases to design cards and other products I sell online. Thus, photographing your artwork can be very handy, and can give you new ideas about how to alter a sketch next time around.

Reference Photographs For TheSelf-Portrait: Doing Art "Your Own Way"

Sepia photo used as a reference for sketching.
Sepia photo used as a reference for sketching. | Source

I took several self-portraits photographs and used a mirror as reference for sketching my self-portrait. Photo editing software was used to turn one of the photographs into a sepia image because I find these type of photos inspiring, and also to help with shading. The other photos were left in color.

This color photograph was also used as a reference for the sketch.
This color photograph was also used as a reference for the sketch. | Source
Using mirrors, and taking pictures from angles gives you new inspiration for the sketch.
Using mirrors, and taking pictures from angles gives you new inspiration for the sketch. | Source

One thing I have learned as an artist that has translated over to my photography is to take photographs that inspire you. Many photographers have certain ideas about angels, or what types or shots are best, but sometimes you just have to flout these rules! The photographs that speak to me the most are the ones other people may not appreciate, but I enjoy photographing and drawing what I find to be aesthetically pleasing. Thus, my photography has truly been an inspiration when it comes to my drawing as I use these as a go-to resource. Just like I abhor the idea of writing a vampire themed novel just because a few people got lucky doing this (the novel I am working on is sort of a critique of the modern romance novel), I also detest going along with what everyone thinks is best when it comes to photography and artwork.

Where did I get this self-confidence in my photography and artwork? It started from the age of a child when I first glanced at the amazing landscapes and portraits my dad took while stationed in Thailand. By the age of seven I had my first camera, and even some of the images I took back then have been of use for me today. What I learned from my dad's travel photos in Thailand was that these were not the overly staged photos to be found in a high-end travel magazine, but what I can say is these is these are beautiful, authentic, and document a time period in the early seventies that will never be seen again. Some of my favorite photographers and artists always created what appealed to them, not what "experts" or popularly opinion dictated. So when it come to photography, sketching, or writing, it is good to flout "the rules" for the sake of creativity. My writing, photography, and artwork have always been stronger for it.

Sketching The Portrait

Sketching the head and the body.
Sketching the head and the body. | Source

I began the sketch by first outlining the body, neck and head based on several of the reference photographs, and my own artistic license. Once I was satisfied with the layout of the body, I added the hair.

In this phase of the sketch I finished adding the hair.
In this phase of the sketch I finished adding the hair. | Source

I like to use pictures of my sketches before I color these in for different cards and prints I design for my website, and just as a reference for future use. Thus, photography can be very useful when it comes to documenting and creating your art inspired products for sale.

Coloring In The Self Portrait

In this phase color is being added to the arm.
In this phase color is being added to the arm.

Coloring in a pencil drawing with colored pencils is always my favorite step in the process. Over the last year I have moved away from using water colored pencils as I noticed the hues faded when you frame your illustration, but this does not seem to be the case with regular colored pencils.

The figure is now completely filled in with the flesh tones.
The figure is now completely filled in with the flesh tones. | Source

Coloring in my sketches is very rewarding because I see my illustrations come to life. Also, I like to use a bit of artistic license when it comes to shading in my drawings, such as changing up the colors of the clothing I was wearing the self-portrait photograph.

The color had been added to the clothes and the rest of the self-portrait.
The color had been added to the clothes and the rest of the self-portrait. | Source

In this phase of the sketch I used a gold colored pencil to give my top an interesting hue, and used the same color on the necklace I drew on my self-portrait.

The background was colored in with a light blue colored pencil.
The background was colored in with a light blue colored pencil. | Source

When I draw animal portraits I often prefer to color in a simply background so the focus remains on the subject, and I did the same with this self-portrait.

This photograph shows what the completed self-portrait sketch.
This photograph shows what the completed self-portrait sketch. | Source

I scanned a picture of my self-portrait to bring out the details of the sketch. My next drawing is another landscape, but I plan on doing more self-portraits and portrait drawings in the future.

The Framed Self-Portrait Drawing

Copyright Notice: All text and photos in this hub are the property of J Hanna and may not be used without permission.

Have you ever drawn a self-portrait?

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    • profile image

      Max 

      5 years ago

      Cool

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Thank you bearclaw!

    • bearclawmedia profile image

      bearclawmedia 

      6 years ago from Mining Planet Earth

      Happy New Year

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I appreciate your comments :).

    • bearclawmedia profile image

      bearclawmedia 

      6 years ago from Mining Planet Earth

      Nice one sweetie pie, but I reckon your name should be cutie pie after seing your self portrait. Hehehehe

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I appreciate your comments msshandriaball.

    • msshandriaball profile image

      Shandria Ball 

      6 years ago from Anniston

      awesome!

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I appreciate your comments GarnetBird!

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 

      6 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Nice work!!! Thank you for visiting my gallery!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      6 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Thanks - I bookmarked it for when I have time to actually check into it further. The drawings there are amazing!

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Hi Barbergirl,

      I recommend the fivepencilmethod.com website. That artist has some very good ideas about how to draw people! He is amazing.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      6 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I have always wanted to be able to draw people... I have tried, but I am not that confident in my drawings to say I would actually show people... but with practice maybe that will change. Very awesome!

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Thank you Katrinasui!

    • katrinasui profile image

      katrinasui 

      6 years ago

      Great tips. You are a very talented girl. I am glad to have a good friend a like you.

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Hi Carco,

      If you write a hub about your drawings, I will definitely read and comment.

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 

      6 years ago from Winnipeg

      I was really thinking about it, one day soon, thanks for that!

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Hi Carco,

      I think you should try doing self-portraits again, and I did a charcoal drawing once too. I wanted to include some of my old portraits in this hub, but I will have to dig thoseout. I recommend the fivepencilmethod.com, which has many great ideas on drawing portraits that I am watching recently.

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 

      6 years ago from Winnipeg

      I think you're ready to become a police sketch artist, nicely done! Great how you have illustrated all of the steps. Thanks for the info, I tried a self portrait when I was in my teens using charcoal and thought it looks pretty close to the real thing, but everyone laughed at it so I never tried again, Lol. But you have talent! Voted Up!

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Hi Rodney,

      Yes, learning to draw self-portraits is just like baking a cake. Nice analogy!

      Hi Bell du jour,

      I am glad you enjoyed this hub. I always enjoy reading drawing books, and looking at different styles of art.

    • bell du jour profile image

      bell du jour 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Great tips for drawing anything not just a self portrait. Many thanks for sharing:-)

      voted up

      Bell

    • Just_Rodney profile image

      Rodney Fagan 

      6 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      I Like it, it is almost like baking a cake for the first time or preparing a new meal.

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