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Self Portrait, Undated by Vivian Maier

Self Portrait, Undated by Vivian Maier


There has been a long tradition of self-portraiture in art, especially amongst women artists, who use it as a way of coming to a better understanding of oneself (as a temporary break into “other”), often adding symbolic imagery or stylized elements to their renderings.

images.duckduckgo.2com For a thorough education in the subject, refer to Frances Borzello’s gorgeous book Seeing Ourselves: Women’s Self Portraits, which covers eight centuries of “lady” painters and photographers and also includes an interesting discussion on 20th century adaptations for performance and new media.

For more of a crash-course style intro, see the annotated galleries at Women Artists at the Easel& Mirror Mirror: Self Portraits by Women Artists.

There is also an eclectic mix of historic and contemporary offerings at the Easel and Me blog.


If you’d like to try your hand at an artsy but less traditional self-portrait, plow through some of the lessons at the Incredible Art blog. Created for art teachers, but fun for adult dabblers as well, choose from vinyl window portraits, bobblehead selfies, collage silhouettes, scratchboard etching, Matisse inspired cut paper portraits and more.

A few more stray links that I like: The Self Portrait Project in Haiti and Alicia Savage’s Project Fairytale Self-Portraits.


Now on to the word-ly bit!  For the the low-down on poetic self portraiture,  check out Lisa Russ Spaar’s Arts& Academe post at the Chronicle of Higher Education–a quick intro to the genre with examples from a handful of emerging poets.

images.duckduckgo.comIf you want the expanded version (yes! please), pick up a copy of Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry (the original) and turn to her lesson on pgs. 277-283.

Here you will find three multi-step exercises on tackling self-portrayal in poems, including the persona poem and the Self- Portrait as OBJECT format.

There are, of course, more example poems packed into the lesson and a handy list of contemporary poems for further reference. Dverse has a few of the suggestions listed here up on their site along with a more open prompt.

The Poetry Foundation also has a nice offering of old& new poems.



For those craving more, Silver Birch Press has a meaty anthology with poems from 67 scribes from all over the globe.

Other poems I’ve gleaned from the net (for your use as models):

Self Portrait as Bilbo Baggins from Liminality

Self Portrait as the Letter Y at Fishouse

Self Portrait as My Father’s Son at Baltimore Review


Have a favorite self-portrait poem, painting or photo?  Shoot us a link in the comments. We love hearing from you.