Drawing a Self-Portrait

Drawing a self-portrait was the initial assignment we used to give students at the outset of our design drawing class. The process we outlined was as follows:

“Have available a fine-tipped black pen capable of marking a sheet of clear acetate. Select a comfortable, seated position in front of a mirror and tape the acetate sheet to the mirror where your face appears. Carefully consider the shape, proportion, and features of your face.

With the pen and using a line technique, draw your portrait directly on the sheet of acetate. To do this, you must look through only one eye—your dominant eye. To find out which is your dominant eye, mark the tip of your nose on the mirror with both eyes open and then shutting each eye in turn. Seen through your dominant eye, the mark will hardly move; through the weaker one, the mark will shift considerably.”


This is my attempt, which I’ve flipped so that the image is as you would see me. It seems that I’m looking to my right but I was actually looking straight ahead. While the task itself does not take very long, it is difficult to keep your head steady while trying to trace the contours of your face. You also learn after a few tries not to draw every line you see! This was a fun exercise that not only introduced the students to drawing from observation but also helped us identify students before the age of digital cameras.