Embracing Self-Portraits

Jun 10, 2024 | written by: patty

"Self portrait for illustrator course in college, 2010 "

Embracing Self-Portraits: Art, Expression, and Self-Love

How Many Self-Portraits Are Too Many?

Let me start by saying that taking many self-portraits is not vanity. I've been obsessed with selfies since I got my hands on a disposable camera. I used to draw myself as a kid, often including my family in the background as tiny figures. Now, I see my girls doing the same. They draw themselves as they see themselves and the rest of us. It's a way of expressing what they're feeling at the moment. I've noticed that they draw us all in happy moments, reflecting their joy. But when they're upset, their drawings change, showing their emotions vividly.

I remember doing the same as a child. If my mom said no to something I wanted without a clear explanation, I'd spiral into a rage-filled drawing session. I'd draw her as a mean person, labeling it “MALA,” which means "mean" in Spanish. Now, my daughter does the same over similar requests—like wanting a specific color popsicle we don't have or feeling her sister got more fries. If you're a parent, you know the many reasons why a “no” can seem like the end of the world to a child.

child drawings by pea

[1] silly doodle self portrait, 1995, this used to be my signature caricature I would draw all the time.
[2] silly self portrait,1994, I drew myself eating a sandwich - this was a time that I would eat a lot and give the excuse that i was feeling weak " me siento debil" ... I also drew my family very tiny running away from me because I was a giant(huge). This was a time when my body was changing and I noticed I was getting bigger so I added humor in my drawings. It's better to make fun of yourself before others do. A thought process I came up with a young age--( things to go over in therapy with my therapist.)

Self-Portraits: Not Just Vanity

So, no, I don't think there's such a thing as too many self-portraits. As we evolve in our artistic journey, we look at our photographs and either love or cringe at what we see. It's a natural part of self-expression and growth.

Over the years, I've expressed myself through self-portraits, whether it's a silly doodle, a graphite drawing, or many photographs. I became self-conscious about what others might think. When I got my first DSLR camera, I took some self-portraits, and an old partner commented, "Wow, that's the most expensive selfie." It felt like an attack on my artistic expression. I didn't have the voice then to explain that he was wrong. Yes, I took many photos of the same pose, but I didn't share them all. I wanted options to choose from. It's crazy how a single comment can impact you for years, making you wonder, "Am I being vain?"

[3] "The Most Expensive Selfie!, 2010, Canon Rebel T2i" - This is the famous most expensive selfie, I wanted a picture holding my brand new camera.

The Challenge and Joy of Portraits

One of my favorite challenges is portraits because they're so hard! Am I a little crazy for that? I do it for practice. While I draw portraits of people I know or myself, I never feel they truly capture the subject. My family and friends praise my work, but I always feel I could be better. It's like having so much energy you feel like you could run, but as soon as you start, you're out of breath and end up walking. That's how I feel about drawing portraits—especially self-portraits. Training your eye to draw what it sees, not what it thinks, requires practice. I'm challenging myself to get back out there and create a self-portrait in charcoal that I'm happy with.

Overcoming Self-Doubt with Artistic Techniques

Years ago, I did two self-portraits in Illustrator using the pen tool. While I loved those exercises, part of me felt like an imposter because I used a photograph as a reference layer, which felt like tracing. Many artists use this method to speed up the process when transferring their artwork to larger canvases or murals using a projector. However, I've always been hard on myself and saw it as a shortcut. I no longer feel that way. I've always been my worst critic and have shied away from drawing self-portraits. How much do I love myself? Now, I can proudly say—a whole lot.

[4] Art School Illustrator Course - Pen tool Project - We had to do a self portrait using the pen tool working in layers. When I first started the class, my professor told me she had no hope for me (she was joking as a compliment after she saw the finished product) because I could not understand the concept of it at the beginning. After diving into an intense course on the pen tool, I finally got it ! We were not allowed to image trace. This project is what gave me the confident to use Illustrator. Thank you Ms. Garcia!

The Beauty of Self-Portraits

So here's to many more self-portraits from here on out. It's a beautiful process of seeing yourself through your art. Whether you're feeling joy or pain, your mind wants to remember. So, take out your cameras, take your self-portraits (selfies!), and if you're extra like me, go ahead and draw yourself…again.