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0:00  Self-Portrait as a rite of passage
0:35  Rembrandt, Caravaggio
1:05  Advantages of self-portraits
1:58  Set-Up: mirror, easel
3:20  Set-Up: Lighting
6:13  Facial Structure

9:05  Direction of gaze, angle of the face
10:34  Thumbnail Sketches: viewfinder
13:34  Cropping, composition
16:45  Line Sketch
18:40  Searching for key features
21:17  Proportions, ¾  view, hair

23:15  Blocking in Colors
25:40  Layering: reflected light
28:50  Artificial light, cool vs. warm colors,
31:05  Transitions, Finishing
33:30  Stylistic Choices


Substitute Supplies

The supplies listed below cost less, and can be used instead of the recommended supplies.

Art Supplies: Hairspray
Use instead of fixative, however, know that hairspray is NOT archival!


Catherine Huang

Catherine Huang
 2017 Summer Intern

“I definitely learned to be satisfied with a color palette that isn’t totally ‘natural looking.’ Having only a 15 pack of Caran D’Ache crayons and no flesh tones made me look harder for colors I wouldn’t have seen before.

Although portraiture was something I’ve done a lot in the past, drawing an image for this course had a refreshing spin on it, because I would periodically mentally check back to Prof Lieu’s videos and apply that to my work.”

Stephanie Gibadlo

Stephanie Gibadlo
2017 Summer Intern

“It had been a while since I have worked with crayon, so it was really exciting to be able to work with it again! It was a bit challenging getting used to the media again though, especially when trying to create something so specific like a self portrait.

When I make portraits, I tend to obsess over achieving likeness that sometimes I will mess up a piece without realizing it, so it was nice to have the lesson format to follow to help myself stay on track. This was a fun project and I’m happy with my final piece!”

Piper Matthew, Architecture Student

Piper Matthew
2017 Summer Intern

“For me I always find self-portraits extremely difficult because you’re constantly confronting yourself as you draw. This course helped me think of the face as a series of abstract shapes and layers. To be able to create a piece from the Khan Academy equivalent for art was really cool!

I wish I had this while I was in high school and was making my portfolio to apply for art school!”

Artist Profile

Visual artist Tony Janello is obsessed with the human face, its endless variations and its extraordinary capacity for expression.

He began his artistic practice painting portraits and eventually began creating three-dimensional sculptures and digital photographs depicting faces that appear structurally unsound as if in the early stages of implosion.

Janello has taught courses at the college level in portraiture, drawing, and color since the early 1980’s.

Partial Video Transcript
“Drawing a self-portrait from life is really a right of passage for every visual artist. The idea of doing a self-portrait I think is so much more than just drawing what you physically look like because when you spend that many hours looking at your face and investigating every single nook and cranny, it’s inevitable that you’re going to do some kind of deeper exploration of who you are and what your identity is. And I think that’s a really fascinating creative and introspective process to go through.

Artists have been creating self portraits for centuries. For example Rembrandt is the quintessential self portrait artist. He really created this extraordinary sequence of self-portraits from when he was a young man until he was an older man.

Artists have also used self-portraits to tell narratives and as metaphors. For example, if you look at Caravaggio’s painting of David and Goliath, where he’s used his own face as a severed head of Goliath.

There are so many practical reasons to draw self-portrait from life. I know that a lot of artists really want to learn how to draw portraits well and yet it’s nearly impossible to find anybody who’s willing and able to sit for you for the period of time that you really need to develop a drawing all the way.

So what happens is I think a lot of artists end up just resorting to drawing from photographs, but the problem with drawing from photographs is that you’re getting about 1% of the information that you would get if you look at a mirror and you draw from life, because the photograph is already two-dimensional.

It’s not a 3D form that you’re interacting with and so you’re losing out on this entire sensory experience that you would get if you draw your subject from life. On top of that you’re not going to find a model who is more able and willing to sit for you pretty much 24/7.”


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To submit, upload your artwork or your students’ artwork below.  Questions? Contact us.

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