DRAW – HOW TO DRAW A SELF PORTRAIT IN PROFILE
Self-portraits are a staple of learning to draw. Not only is it a challenge to capture one’s own likeness, as long as you have a mirror, you are also guaranteed a subject! It is an accessible way to get practice with portraiture. Self-portraits can sometimes feel like a mundane subject, and often our efforts aren’t very imaginative, as we may feel limited by this view.
However, there are things we can do to make it more fun! One option is to use mirrors to get a profile view. It is an effective way to defamiliarise ourselves with our own likeness, as we have fewer expectations of this less familiar view. This is also a good exercise for children, as it is more playful than a direct portrait.
HOW TO SET UP
Beyond your drawing tools, you will need two mirrors to do this. To view your profile:
- Place your first mirror in front of you at head height, angled out a little bit towards the second mirror.
- The second mirror should be propped up at head height at your side, slightly behind you, at an angle that faces between the first mirror and your face.
You might find that it takes a bit of trial and error to get the angles just right – I often have to adjust both mirrors once I sit down. It may help to turn your chair slightly towards the second mirror.
This is my set up for the demonstration below. I used an easel for my second mirror, but any arrangement of furniture and books would work.
You can experiment with the placement of the mirrors. By adjusting the side mirror, you can get unusual oblique angles, or even approach some ¾ views as more of the face comes into view. You can also use this technique to do some hair studies.
Another trickier option is to try out elevated angles by raising or lowering your side mirror – just keep it tilted towards your head. If you raise the mirror and point it down slightly, you will get a view from above, whilst lowering the mirror and pointing it up will show a view from below.
Artemisia Gentileschi – ‘Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting’ It is possible that Gentileschi used two mirrors to help her capture her face and pose for this complex self portrait – of course, cameras were not an option 400 years ago! It is possible to get a similar angle of your own head by elevating the second mirror.
TIPS FOR DRAWING THE PORTRAIT IN PROFILE
As the head turns, the features are going to be confined to the front of head. Hold your finger up to the illustration below, and you will probably find it covers the features.
Proportions of the features. Proportions vary a bit from person to person, but they are a useful way to check for errors.
I tend start by locating the hairline, or the eyebrows if I cannot see the hairline. Using this as an anchor, I break the face into thirds, either working down from the hairline, or out from the eyebrow. (To do this, divide the face below the eyebrow in half, then transfer a half above the eyebrow to create an imaginary hair line.)