Creative exercises for every month

Find Yourself in February

This is one of our favourite courses in the calendar. Our aim is to approach self-portraiture from as many creative angles as possible. It’s all about ‘finding’ your own style rather than having a set idea. We used photography, collage, drawing, painting and inspiration from great artists to help this process. All exercises are posted to our Facebook group.

Spend the month of February exploring different approaches to self-portraits. These exercise will hopefully take you out of your comfort zone and encourage playfulness and risk-taking.

Come and see what we're up to now on our Facebook group.

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Exercise #1: Five quick one minute sketches. ✍️
As you can see this is not about getting a pretty drawing of yourself. Quick sketches will help you to improve your ability to quickly and accurately draw your portrait.

💡This is a great warm up exercise and would be good to do everyday if you want to boost your drawing skills over this month.
👉 For the first sketch I simply did a quick sketch.
👉 The second one I didn't look at my page only at my face.
👉 The third sketch was a continuous line drawing keeping my pen on the page.
👉 The final two sketches were just quick and scribbly. 

 Quick self-portrait sketches only one minute each


Create a digital pattern with your image. Get creative using filters or whatever takes your fancy. Any program that allows you to copy and paste will do.



Photograph your distorted reflection
👉 Find some interesting reflective objects, the more it distorts your image the better!

 👉 Take 10 photos of your reflection in each object you've chosen.

👉 Take your phots from different angles and in different lighting.

👉 Choose your favourite. 

Find yourself in February, taking photos of your distorted reflection


String drawing of yourself
👉 Use a reference photo, string/wool and glue
👉Cut a nice long piece of wool or string to be your very long line. Use the string to draw your self-portrait
👉I suggest playing around with the string first before you stick it down.
This exercise can be sticky but is satisfyingly restrictive and creative. You know you can’t do an accurate representation so there is a lot of freedom to play around 😊



Copy this painting
This is a self portrait by artist Inna Sklyarevskaya.
* I've chosen this self-portrait because the artist hasn't made herself the whole focus of the painting.
* I worked quickly on half a standard sized pastel paper in oil pastel.
* I focused on general shapes and colours not worrying about making it an exact copy.



Create your own version with you as the subject from exercise 5.
* Use the layout from Sklyarevskaya's self-portrait to create your own version.
* Put your self in the picture.
* Play around with colours.
* I changed some of the features and changed the lampposts into trees



Collage of your whole figure using blocks of colour from a magazine ✂️
This exercise gave me a big confidence boost as I’d been having trouble getting anything I liked from drawing this image. The collage was fun and freeing 💚 I hope you like it too!
• Use a photo of yourself as a reference.
• Look through your magazine to find areas of colour you can use. I like to use pictures as these add detail to your work (I used an image of sand dunes for my arms and the darker foliage became the shadow).
• Look for large shapes to put down first as the background of your collage. No need to go for realistic colours 😁
• Look at the large blocks of colour in your figure and place a couple down.
• At this stage I would suggest taking a photo and comparing it side-by-side with your reference image. Look at both the thumbnail images to see if you are getting the basic proportions right.
• Continue on choosing shapes and comparing with your photo 👍



Watch this short video about the artistic process of Yvette Coppersmith. She won the 2018 Archibald Prize for her self-portrait.




    This is a great exercise for getting the essence of a portrait. Look at your reflection in a TV with it turned off.
    👉 Draw only what you see, if you can't see your eyes, don't draw them
    👉 Use a blunt drawing implement, charcoal or pastel. This avoids detail.


    EXERCISE #10

    Continuous line drawing of different images.
    This is a fun way of quickly practicing different angles. I think the end result is pretty great too 😊
    📸 Put together about 4 different images of yourself. Some full length and from different angles. I even used one of my shadow.
    📸 Do a continuous line drawing going from one picture to another. Rotate your page so that they fit around each other.
    🖊 Use a pen for nice bold lines.

    continuous line drawing self portraits


    EXERCISE #11

    A quick colour sketch from an interesting angle.
    👉 I got Emily to take a photo of me from an odd angle.
    👉 I used acrylic paint to create a quick colour sketch


    EXERCISE #12

    For this exercise I thought I'd share a video on Niki de Saint Phalle. Her work is experimental and honest, putting herself right in there. It made me think about what I want from my art and perhaps I need to put more of myself in my paintings.


    EXERCISE #13

    Draw yourself in the mirror
    👉 Remember to use whiteboard markers not permanent.
    👉 I had fun with this, just scribbled a bit.

    EXERCISE #14

    Have a go at copying this self-portrait by Albin Egger-Lienz (1923). I chose it for its limited palette and expressionist style. There’s always so much to learn from copying great art 👍

    * Or choose a another self-portrait from a great artist.

    EXERCISE #15

    Freestyle collage
    ✂️ Use a drawing or photo of yourself to incorporate into a collage.
    ✂️ The idea is to have fun with this 😄


    EXERCISE #16

    Cut up a drawing and re-arrange it. This exercise helps you not to feel precious about your work. Knowing you're going to cut up your drawing means you can focus more on colours and shapes rather than getting a good likeness.
    👉 I did a quick pastel drawing using two colours.
    👉 I cut it into strips, then cut pieces again.
    👉 I re-arranged them to create a new image.
    👉 I stuck them down on a dark background.


    EXERCISE #17

    For this exercise we are building on a favourite process of mine— drawing with wool or string.
    Phoebe and I made a demo video for the painting part of this exercise 🎬 we’d love it if you could subscribe to our channel while you’re there.
    • Choose a drawing or photo of yourself as a reference.
    • Use a long piece of wool or string and a glue stick to create a line drawing. This can be a bit fiddly getting the string to stick as you draw but is well worth it.
    • Once totally dry glue down some paper with text on it for the darker areas— let this dry.
    • Use watered down acrylic paint to wash over the areas. Let this dry.
    • Use a darker acrylic paint (not watered down) and a palette knife or card to wipe over the lines created by the wool/string. This will make them stand out 👍


    EXERCISE #18

    Our final exercise for this month is to draw yourself pulling a face

    👉 I took lots of photos of myself pulling faces, different angles and putting objects in front of my face.

    👉 I chose my favourite and drew it with charcoal.

    👉 It was interesting how many aspects of my face changed when I pulled a face. Lines were different as well as shapes.

    👉 This helped my look more closely at my face and stopped me using my memory to draw from.

    draw yourself pulling a face, self portrait exercise