Self-Portrait Instructions


The goal of this exercise is to represent how you see and feel about yourself. It's about your self-image, not how others perceive you or how you would like to be. This exercise is not about creating a perfect likeness of your physical self; instead, it's about representing your sense of self.

When I was creating my very first self-portrait in art therapy class, for whatever reason I drew myself as a 12-year-old in my room in the house I used to live growing up.  If you feel like depicting your past self, you are welcome to do so, but stir away from creating an image of your future self. 

Your self-portrait might look like a human figure, or it can be a combination of shapes or colors. If you decide to go completely abstract it's okay; your self-portrait does not necessarily have to look like a human figure. 

If you choose to draw a human figure, please do not pressure yourself to make it look artistic or perfect, you are not going to be graded. :)

It's an open-ended exercise, in a sense that everything goes, but here are some guidelines and ideas and all of them are acceptable:

  • You might feel like drawing the human figure with a head, arms, torso legs, etc. or you might feel like creating an abstract image representing you now or in the past.
  • You can make it black and white or use color.
  • Your figure might be placed on a solid background or no background at all.
  • Your figure might be placed in an environment like a room, outside of a house, in a park, etc. or it might be floating in space.
  • You might decide to draw only a face or a full body, or you might choose to picture just upper body like face, neck, and shoulders.

All of the above are acceptable. 

A sheet of paper or cardboard or paper shopping bag.
Any of the following: (choose one medium or mix and match)
crayons, pencil, markers, colored pencils, oil pastels, chalk pastels
If you decide to create a collage, have glue, scissors, and magazines ready.


- If you find a blank sheet of paper too precious, you can use paper shopping bag or any other surface you have around the house.

- If drawing a full-blown human figure feels intimidating, start with drawing random scribbles and fill them with colors you are attracted to as you go along. Observe what emerges, and then you can add to it and make it resemble a human figure if you choose to. It's not about being Michael Angelo and creating a perfect portrait of yourself.
Try using your non-dominant hand if you notice yourself falling into self-criticism or perfectionism. 
In short, loosen up :) Whatever shows up on the page is welcome.

- If drawing is not your forte, feel free to do collage instead. Pick images you are attracted to from magazines or print them out if you found them online and start assembling them on a piece of paper or cardboard, bearing in mind that they represent how you see yourself.


This exercise can take anywhere between 30-60 minutes. You can also create a very quick and simple image in 10 minutes or so. It really depends on how detailed you want to be and your time constraints.

Space and mood

Before you begin creating I recommend if possible finding a physical space where you won't be interrupted. Approach the image making process in the same way you would any meditative practice. I find that setting an intention, lighting some incense and playing soft music helps with turning inward and stepping into creative space. If it's not achievable, the image you create will still be valuable and will contain important messages we will unpack during the session.

Enjoy the process!