How to draw a self-portrait
Self-portraiture is one of the oldest trends in art, and for good reason. Not only can you always pose (if you have a mirror), but there is no better way to practice achieving a likeness than with the face you are most familiar with.
Let’s go over some tips about drawing a self-portrait.
Avoid drawing only from photos
The best way to learn how to draw a self-portrait is from life. After all, you are alive! Drawing a self-portrait with a mirror allows you to see that you are drawing in three dimensions.
It becomes much easier to understand volumes, light and darkness than when you’re just looking at a flat photo. Plus, you can adjust the light source to your liking, instead of stopping with a set light on a photo you’ve already taken.
Make your workspace comfortable
Make sure your work environment is optimal. For some of us, having our own studio may be a luxury, but still, it’s better to have something than just a sketchbook in your lap.
Put the mirror where it’s easy to see – don’t drag your drawing materials into the bathroom! Place a wall mirror on a camera tripod; that way it’s closer to the drawing surface, without having to head back and forth between your drawing and the mirror.
Make sure you have a good light source and drawing surface upright, because on a flat surface the drawing can “get away from you” and become distorted. An inexpensive easel and light bulb is a great option.
Work from the general to the specific
The best way to tackle something as complex as a self-portrait is to keep it simple. Think about the biggest shapes and contrasts – light and dark.
Work freely and easily at first, developing the right proportions and contrasts, gradually getting closer to the details. Don’t switch to drawing a realistic eye, for example, and then move on. Your whole drawing should be on the same level. This helps you keep the full image in your mind instead of focusing on the little things.
Try and try again!
Let’s be honest. There are no shortcuts in becoming a great artist. It may be a cliché, but the old saying that success is “99% sweat” is absolutely true.
Practice, practice, practice – those are the rules. We can only learn from mistakes, and each realized mistake is a step toward a better self-portrait.
Thus, the best advice when painting a great self-portrait is to paint as much as you can and not work alone. Let other artists see what you are doing and talk to them about your work. Accept criticism!
But the most important thing is the work. An art professor once put it this way, “Everyone has a thousand terrible jobs. The sooner you get rid of them, the sooner you get to the good ones.” The good news is that it’s not a thousand terrible works in a row. Every now and then you’ll create something great, and the more you do that, the more often the good work will show up. So draw!