Self Portraits – How to Make Self Portraits with Words & Pictures

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A picture is worth 1000 words... but sometimes words can help us paint quite the picture...

Barbara Kruger

Good afternoon campers! Today we will be using what we learned yesterday when we made our hand portraits, and using our journalling work from this morning  to make self portraits that include words… these words could be the descriptive words you discovered this morning, or they could be a poem or story that you have written, or just one you like and feel express you… you could use song lyrics, a mantra, important facts about you, or a list of things you love… 


Like most activities, there is no right or wrong way to do this, and it is about expressing yourself and being creative! So, just like yesterday, Im going to give you some ideas to inspire you, and then you are free to unleash your creativity! 

Like always, I am available on Facebook and via email if you have any questions, or want any advice or feedback as you go along… 

Just like the journalling we did

So this idea, which is illustrated here by Love Becca, is basically exactly what we did in our journals this morning, except that the words are bursting out of a picture of yourself instead of a circle! If you want to have a go at this don’t panic at “not being able to draw” a picture of yourself, you could use a photograph instead. Have you ever tried drawing or painting on top of a photograph? You could use a dark pen to go over your feature, or wash yourself with pastel coloured water colours… 

Nate Williams Style

I absolutely love these pictures! The instructions for this art activitity can be found here on Art Projects for Kids. They even have some head outlines you can print off for reluctant drawers! 

While we are talking about Nate Wiliams – go check his website out , there is some really cool art on there, including this composition generator, which I know kids will just love to play with! 

Just words...

If you don’t want to include any literal visual representation of yourself, try something like this. Make spaces for your descriptive words, poem, or story, and think about the colours, lines and lettering. Do you see how the letters change shape and size to fit the wavy lines? I think that is really effective. What other shapes could you make? A spiral might work well, or lots of squares or triangles inside one another? Think about shapes and colours that reflect your personality! 

What can you make your background from? I think you could try anything, collage, water colours, pens, crayons, pastels – what’s your favourite medium to use?

Use book pages for your words...

This is such a good idea, especially if you are a book lover, or you want to focus more on drawing than writing. This post from Art. Paper. Scissors. Glue has step by step instructions of one way of creating these types of portraits, inspired by Andy Warhol. They use acetate to overlay the portrait on top of book pages. Its a really cool effect. 

However, if you don’t have acetate, you could try painting straight onto the book pages. Or, have a go at a collage from pages instead, like this one, (which I unfortunately can’t find the credit for). I really like how the background is made up of bigger letters, and the face and hair is from bits of pages and magazines. 

Use words to draw with...

This is super cool and clever, and I really want to have a go at this. Im always fascinated by words becoming the image we are looking at!  

I like how this student has used the body part names to draw the body parts! And then has used the things he likes to create the shape of his head! The stretching of the letters is really effective too! 

Have a go, experiment… if you are finding it tricky, try writing on top of a photograph at first, to work out where the lines need to go. Try different colours and pens and see what effects you get…

Abstract portraits inspired by the Wonder cover

These are wonderful!! If you have read the magnificent book Wonder by R.J Palacio, you may well recognise the style of these pictures, as they are inspired by the illustrator of the front cover, Tad Carpenter. Head over to the Instagram post by Katie Allain to find out how her students made these, or just have a go yourself! 

Something different

So this is a little different. But, there is something very beautiful about it. I guess its an idea for older kids, teens and adults, or you could simplify it and “cheer it up” for younger kids… 

I think this image has been created using editing software, but you could easily do it manually, but cutting and pasting paper over the face and adding the text… If you or your child enjoys photography they could spend time setting up the portrait too… 

A Little Light Reading

The Word Party by Richard Edwards is a poem I came across when I was about 10 years old. I have the book, with the same title, in which I found the poem. I actually very clearly remember getting this book out from the library… its funny how some things just stick with you! Anyway, its perfect reading for today… 

Loving words clutch crimson roses,Rude words sniff and pick their noses,
Sly words come dressed up as foxes,
Short words stand on cardboard boxes,
Common words tell jokes and gabble,
Complicated words play Scrabble,
Swear words stamp around and shout,
Hard words stare each other out,
Foreign words look lost and shrug,
Careless words trip on the rug,
Long words slouch with stooping shoulders,
Code words carry secret folders,
Silly words flick rubber bands,
Hyphenated words hold hands,
Strong words show off, bending metal,
Sweet words call each other ‘petal’,
Small words yawn and suck their thumbs,
Till at last the morning comes.
Kind words give out farewell posies.
Snap! The dictionary closes.

Journal Prompts

You probably feel a bit over writing and self reflection today, so you might want to skip your journalling today. 

If you are feeling inspired though, and want to do more more more, try these:


  • Copy the poem above 
  • Write about one thing you would like to change about yourself and reflect on why… 
  • Write a list of your favourite things… 
  • Imagine yourself as a character in a fictional book, what you do? where would you go? what would your story be? 
  • Draw a stick man of yourself, your friends and family… 
See you tomorrow for a bit of a catch up day, and a few bits of inspiration – have a good one! 
Thanks for Sharing!
Katherine is a mixed media artist, art teacher, writer, designer, photographer – and mum of 2 – who works and lives in North Devon, nestled in the woods on a little smallholding. She has a BA in Performance Studies, an MA in Fine Art, and an MFA in photography, alongside a background in early years childhood and special education. Katherine uses her artistic talents, passion for helping people, and unique creativity to create articles, courses and classes that promote creativity, artistic skills, self expression and well-being. She believes in the power of the creative arts and how engaging with them can improve so many aspects of life.
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