Landscape TRACK: Lesson 6, Self-Portrait as a Space


  • Create a self-portrait of yourself as a real or imagined space.
  • Establish anything from a specific mood, a visual style, the architecture of the space, and how those choices portray your life and experience.
Landscapes & Backgrounds Track Prompt, Neil Espinosa
Neil Espinosa


  • Consider the architecture of the space, is it organic like the Bilbao Museum by Frank Gehry, or pointy and sharp like a Daniel Liebskind building?
  • Is the space old and worn, is it brand new and shiny?
  • What objects are in the space, why are these objects there?
Plein Air Landscape Painting in Óbidos, Portugal
Landscape Painting in Óbidos, Portugal
  • Is there a time period you want associated with your space? Perhaps the space has a contemporary look like a Zaha Hadid building, or perhaps it’s a historical mosque like Hagia Sophia.
  • Is there a specific style to the space, such as the French Baroque style of the Palace of Versailles or Hobbiton from The Lord of the Rings?
  • What type of lighting is in the space, are there large windows, or perhaps there are no windows at all?
  • Is the space meager and humble, or epic and majestic?


  • Write a list of your personality traits. Examples: silly, energetic, jealous, impatient, reserved, empathic, etc.
  • Write a list of the types of visuals that are specific to you: bright saturated colors, loud patterns, organic shapes, etc.
Landscapes Track: Underwater Scene, mood board
Wadalafer, mood board
  • Write a list of spaces in your life (the past or present) that have meaning to you and why they are important to you.
  • Try building a mood board, both for inspiration and to collect reference photos.
  • Our Brainstorming Track has several exercises you can do to get started.

Thumbnail Sketches

We recommend doing about 6 small thumbnail sketches to explore a diverse range of options for your composition. Start your first thumbnail sketches with line and think about how you want to place your subject onto the page.

Neil Espinosa

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Elements of Art: Space

This video explores Space in 2D artworks, one of the Elements of Art. Topics include how to create the illusion of space in a 2D artwork, ways to create depth through atmospheric perspective, point of view, and articulation.

Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Lauryn Welch.

44 min. video

“Bad” Backgrounds in Art

What makes a “bad” background? This video shows a broad range of backgrounds in fine art, TV shows, and more. We share the opinions of several artists as to why the backgrounds are effective or not.

The opinion of each artist on the backgrounds then stimulates a discussion on why a specific composition in a background is successful or not. Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artists Jordan McCracken-Foster and Alex Rowe.

40 min. video

3D Design: Chipboard

Art Prof Clara Lieu presents a basic 3D design project using chipboard and glue guns to construct a sculpture which is an abstract representation of the artist’s personality.

Lieu begins with a brainstorming activity as a starting point for generating shapes and designs that will visually show an artist’s personality. Cutting techniques with utility knives, shaping techniques with the chipboard, and construction methods with a hot glue gun are covered in depth. 

With Guest Teaching Artist Annelise Yee.

13 min. video