What Inspires Me: Self Portraits

Self portraits are a tricky thing.  When I ask my students to do self portraits, many times they get caught up in creating a physical likeness rather than all the other stuff that makes them unique.  Lately I have been asking them to take a more conceptual approach to the self-portrait, and create something that could look like them but focus on capturing the essence of who they are as a human being.

I love this work by Yue Minjun, which looks like him, but in reality it is about so much more, drawing on iconic eastern and western images to create a sort of psychosis on the canvas.

Yue Minjun, Between Men and Animal, 2005

Another favorite of mine, Cindy Sherman, uses herself in her photography, but again the pictures are about more than her physical self.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #56

So what is my point…Well, I think one of the best creative exercises is to reflect on experiences and use them as a means of inspiration.  Lately I have been thinking about the past, especially my childhood, the things I experienced and the adventures I had.  I also have been thinking a lot about my present state of discontent and the excitement of the future, especially the transition home…..

I found some pictures and scraps that I usually hang up around my house, but I just have not done that here in Brussels, but yesterday I decided to go for it.  It was a tremendously cathartic experience and in the end I created my own self-portrait that identifies many of the highs and lows of my life.  I wasn’t really thinking about how or where to put the pictures, I just got caught in the moment and taped them up in a stream of consciences. In the end creating the essence of me rather than a likeness. What I like about this piece is that it is transportable and every time I take it down and put it up it will change and maybe even grow or shrink through time.





I’d like to challenge you to creat your own self portrait, not worrying about likeness, but just focusing on you and consider how you would express what is important to you and about you. It’s a great way to find inspiration for artworks or for writing.  If you do make a portrait, I’d love to see it!

Take care and thanks for reading!



2 responses

  1. Krista. I just got back from NY where I saw the Cindy Sherman retro. It almost took me out . The work is huge and at times overwhelming and to be surrounded by it is amazing. and exhausting. I love your self portrait..the don’t push me around jump right off the wall at me..Have you seen Kara Walkers paper cuts..the book Narratives of a Negress?? A portrait fro sure..

  2. I was so disappointed to find out that the Sherman show would be over by the time I got back. I love her work and knowing the reasoning behind her new large scale work, I want to see it so bad. Kara Walker is a favorite of mine too. I hope you had a good time in the city!

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