Digital Art: Self-Portrait



A self-portrait is a representation of an artist, drawn, painted, photographed, sculpted, or created by the artist himself. Artists created portraits of themselves to express their emotions, personalities, and characteristics. Self-portraits have been made by artists since the earliest times, although had been officially introduced in the Early Renaissance, or the mid-15th century. During that time, many famous self-portraits were created. These are some examples of those famous paintings;

Albrecht Dürer, 1493. Louvre, Paris.

Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, 1782. Paris Salon.

“If you cannot capture the essence of your own self, how are you to capture the essence of someone else?” — Bridgetbrow.

Many artists paint pictures of themselves because it is easy and expressive. It is always great to have a model that is always available for you, and will never complain if the picture turns out bad. Where else can you find someone who have enough time to look carefully at yourself, and examine your eyes, your nose, and your lips for hours. Besides that, you know yourself best, after all, so a self-portrait can be a very good way to communicate who you are, and who you want people to see you as, to everyone.

Creating a Digital Self-Portrait

A digital self-portrait is way easier than a painting. To create a digital self-portrait, you need a Photo-Editing software. With the software, you need to trace your photo and add filter effects onto it. With these artistic effects, you will be able to create a digital self-portrait.

What images are best for creating a self-portrait?

Basically, images that focuses on your face. This should be either your front view or profile view. The image should also have a strong expression, and show your characteristics clearly.

Analyzing Historical Famous Self-Portraits

The European artists started using mirrors to paint their self-portraits since the 15th century. However, nowadays, most artists use photographs of themselves to paint their self-portraits, because photographs are still images, so it is easier for them to work with.

What kind of person do you think the artist was. Is there anything in the picture that might help you find an answer?

A lot of things in the painting help us to know what kind of person the artist was, such as, their costumes, their actions, and their facial expression. In example, the image of Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun shown above. In that self-portrait of her, it is quite obvious that she was a fashion model, because of the clothes she is wearing, and the pose she is acting in the picture.

Another good example, is this self-portrait of Piero della Francesca, in 1463:

He is wearing a soldier gear, and is sleeping. This shows his career and personality.

What kind of mood do you think the artist was trying to create? How have they created that mood?

Different things in the painting give certain feelings to the audience. Artists used color and tone, as well as the model’s expression, environment, and costumes to create the mood. Take this self-portrait of Marie-Denise Villers’, named “Young Woman Drawing”, 1891, as an example:

In this painting, she is wearing a white tunic, her expression shows a young, innocent girl, she is painting on a big canvas, and is sitting in a dark, empty room. All these factors give an innocent mood.

Have any artists used distortion? If they have, why have they done that do you think?

Yes, lots of artists used distortion in their self-portraits. This is because sometimes distortions can help them communicate and express their art better. Certain distortions give certain feelings. Some blurs can give the feelings of sadness and loneliness, while some artistic filters can give the feelings of happiness. All these different distortion help the painting to look more interesting and expressive. Which, I think, is why many artists used it in their paintings.

“Self-portrait.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 21 Sept. 2010. <;.

Creation Process

1. First Process

This was the first process of my self portrait. I first chose a photo of me taken at KIS Fun Fair ’10, then erase the image’s background and use a gradient . Then I did a little “plastic-surgery” to myself. I smudged my hair, to make it look smoother, and smudged my face to make it look clearer. I also used iWarp filter effect in GIMP to change the sizes of my face and body. But as you can see, I have not yet added any other things to represent “myself” in this first process.

2. Second Process

This was the second process of my self-portrait. I have changed the proportion of the picture of myself to look more realistic, and I have also added the filter effect named Cartoon to myself to fit in with the theme. The theme of this portrait seems to be very “Emo”. Some of my friends even said it looks scary in a way. I changed the colors of my hair, lips, eyes, and shirt to be purple, because purple is my favorite color. I have also changed the background into this image of a flower field. I have taken this photo at New Zealand. I would say that between the first and second process, I have improved a lot. Though one very bad thing about this portrait is that, it doesn’t really represent “me”, except my favorite color purple. I, myself, isn’t even an emotional or “emo” person. As you can see from my work progress, that the most challenging thing for me is express myself into my portrait.

3. Third process

For my third process, I have to admit that I spent loads of time thinking and thinking about what to add on to the portrait to make it express more of myself. I, then, finally found a photo of a Blythe doll I have taken. It actually belongs to my friend. This purple Blythe doll represents me, because I’ve always loved Blythe dolls and their outfits. I made the image’s opacity very low, so that it doesn’t stand out too much. I also added the filter effect named Cartoon to it, so that it fits into the theme of the portrait. Although, I still feel like this isn’t really me. The tone of the portrait is dark and depressing, which is the opposite to who I am. And that was how I began the thought of starting over again.

4. Fourth process

I had finally came up with a conclusion to start over again. I considered my 1st to 3rd processes as a practice and start over again. And this time, I will express as much as I possibly can. I chose this photo of myself because it has a very bright color. I then smudged my hair and face skin, and used iWarp filter effects to make myself look prettier, of course. Then I used my favorite filter effect of all, Cartoon, because I want my portrait to look like an abstract. Then I crop parts of my head and change the colors of effects. My purpose in doing this is to show to my audience that I am the type of person who has lots of personalities. And each color represents each of my personalities.

5. Fifth process

In my fifth process, I have rotated my picture in the portrait side, and had also add more shapes on my hair to represent all my favorite colors. Though the biggest change I’ve made was the background. I have chosen this photo I took at Pablio, Khao Yai as my background. It was a very beautiful art gallery. I chose this background because I love art galleries. I love to paint and look at paintings of other artists. I have also posterized the photo to make it fit with my abstract theme. Though, I still feel like I need some more pictures to show myself and my personalities.

6. Sixth process

In this final process, I have finally came up with an idea of what to put to express myself in the portrait. I have decided to actually draw a paint brush on my portrait. I then colored it and used the filter effect named Newsprint to make them look abstract. I also adjust the opacity of the image so that it doesn’t stand out too much. This image shows my hobby in painting. As you can see, I have made my portrait very bright and colorful, very different from my first one. This is because I think colorful is the real tone of my life, not purple.

Evaluation of my Artwork

The theme of my artwork is abstract. I have used many filter effects, such as Cartoon and Newsprint, to clarify this theme. Those colorful shapes I added also represent the abstract theme of the portrait. But besides representing the theme, those shapes also represent my personalities, as mentioned before. Most of the plain colored shapes represent my favorite colors, though the ones with textures represent my personalities. For example, the one with the Newsprint effect shows my very lively personality, the one with the black and white effect shows that I can be very boring sometimes, and the posterized one shows my bright and optimistic personality. The art gallery background and the drawing of the paint brush also communicate that I love arts. The overall tone of this portrait is colorful. This is because I want to show that my life is very colorful, and that nothing in my life is definite right now.

In terms of using skills and effects, I think I’ve done a pretty good job. I have used lots of filters, and have change lots of colors. I have also used my skill in using different layers for different images. This made my working process easier. I have also changed the opacity of each image to prioritize which one should be most outstanding, and which one should be least. As you can see, it requires me critical thinking as well as those computer skills. I think I have done a great job in this artwork.


The most challenging part for me in this project was to make sure that my self portrait represents myself. As you can see from my work progress, that I had to start over again because my first one did not show who I really am. I personally really like the first one, and I wouldn’t have redo it if I was an emotional or scary type of person. But since I’m the opposite and a good self portrait has to show yourself, I had to start over again. In my second one, I could represent my personalities by those shapes, but I still struggled a little thinking how to show my hobbies using pictures in the portrait. I think that had been the hardest part for me in creating a self portrait.

Time is an important issue when it comes to this kind of project. Though, I would say that I had managed my time pretty well in class. I finished my final artwork in class, and submitted it on time. I know that I had wasted many periods on the first portrait that I ended up not using, but I would say that it is a very good practice. Because I had learnt what filters do what effects, how to organize layers in the best way, and all those skills, I could finish the final artwork in only a couple of hours. So my time management was pretty well-organized.

If I have a chance to do this project again, I would not waste that many hours on my first portrait. Even though I could finish my work on time, and that portrait was a good practice, but I think my final one could have been better if I kept in mind in the first place, that the portrait has to represent myself. So if I can do things all over again, I would be aware of that point, and spend more time on my final artwork.


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