Making Self-Portraits



A psychologically investigative examination and corresponding lesson dissect the purpose and meaning of self-portraiture.


Students will make whole body self-portraits without looking at mirror with Cray- pas and watercolors.


Keith Haring Polaroids


40 x 30 pieces of paper
Cray pas
Watercolors & painting supplies


Keith Haring Self-portraits will be shown in a slide projector. A discussion about each portrait will be engaged, and the importance of the mirror and looking in each of them. The slides will show a progression in the different kinds of self-portraits there could be…ranging from optically realistic likeness, to more expressive, towards more abstract.

After the intensive existentialist wanderings…(40 x 30 in) pieces of paper will be handed to the class, and they will be asked (continuation of the body language lesson plan) to make a whole body self-portrait.

Before this, a brief explanation on how materials are used will be given.

First, start your portrait with pencil. Put the piece of paper on the floor and work with the whole piece of paper.

Try combining the watercolors and the Cray-pas. Varying the amount of water with the watercolors, can affect the intensity of the pigment.

Experiment using a wet brush and a dry brush to create different textures.

Either a brush or a Cray-pas can be used as a drawing, or filling-in tool.

Think before putting any mark into the paper, use memory to recall the notion of who you are.

At the end of class there will be a Portrait Gallery Opening Mock, where all the students hang their paintings in the wall.


What is a self-portrait?

Is a self-portrait just a recording of the appearance of a person?

What can be communicated by a self-portrait? Examples…

Is likeness important?

Do we need a mirror to make a self-portrait? What other devices could help us?

Are we who we are? What others think we are? Who are we?

What defines who we are?

Does the way (materials, technique) the self-portrait is made give some insight about the artist?


The author of this lesson, Gonzalo Fuenmayor, a student of the School of Visual Arts in NYC, is the 1999-2000 scholarship recipient of the Keith Haring Scholarship award. This project was a collaboration with The School of Visual Arts & Junior High 45 in New York City

To find out more about The Keith Haring Foundation Scholarship offered through the School of Visual Arts, please contact:
Director, School of Visual Arts/Visual Arts Foundation, 15 Gramercy Park South, NYC 10003.

SVA's web site