NOTE:  This is a very brief overview of self portraits.  There is a wonderful body of work by experts available online and in books on this important art therapy topic.

Self portraits are used in art therapy as a way for patients to express themselves often revealing how they see and feel about themselves.  There are many self portrait exercises that art therapists use to prompt an open discussion.  Here are a few:

  • BODY TRACINGS: generally used for children and adolescents; discussion:  is it a realistic drawing?  what clothes, accessories and hair were drawn?  what is the facial expression?  are there body image issues?  are they holding something or doing an activity?
  • FACE ONLY PORTRAIT JOURNALING:  journaling in a book is often used (this will be a separate blog post in the future);  discussion:  are words in it or is it a drawing only?  why did you choose the words?  what expression is on the face?  anxious?  happy?  what colors were used? are there features that are more prominent?  why?
  • EMOTION PORTRAITS:  drawing themselves with different emotions;  discussion:  what emotions did they choose to draw?  why were the emotions chosen?  how do you cope with that emotion? 
  • PORTRAIT COLLAGE:  selecting representative pictures, words from magazines, paperworks, etc and placing them on a support;  discussion:  why were the images and words selected?  what arrangement are they in?  are there more negative or positive words?  are there family members in it?  pets?

How would you draw or paint a self portrait?  What words would you use to describe yourself?  What colors would you use?


I have been greatly influenced by graffiti art..bold, bright colors painted with spontaneity so it’s no surprise that my self portraits have those same elements.

I made a stencil using a picture of myself as a template (I’m thinking of making a “how-to” of this process).  On the photo above, I painted the background with acrylic paints on an 8 X 10 canvas and then simply spray painted the stencil using black Krylon spray paint.  To make the face standout, I then masked the canvas except for the face so that I could splatter on watered down white acrylic paint.

The photo below is a work on Strathmore acrylic paper.  Here, I first spray painted the stencil and then filled in the face by writing inspirational words with a black micron pen and markers.  I’m in the middle of a lettering class and like being able to include my new skills in this work.  Here it is….

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