Self Discovery Series: Mirror, Mirror

After a full month of reflecting on who you are and what you want out of life, now is the time to truly challenge yourself by creating a self portrait. Don’t worry about how others think of you or the major roles in life that define you. Now is the time to focus on YOU and fill your canvas, journal page or anything else up with the gloriously, beautiful image of you! Use this Painting Over a Photograph demonstration as a reference guide from Art Journal Courage.

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Painting Over a Photograph

 I love to paint over photographs. This classic technique has been around for years. It gives you a great artsy image for your journal, and it also is great painting practice. I find it easiest to paint over photos that are close-ups, and I like my mouth to be closed. (I’m not too good at painting my teeth; they tend to end up looking a bit like Chiclets.)


acrylic paint
black Stabilo All pencil
color-copy of a photograph (not an ink-jet print)
gel medium
Portfolio Oil Pastels or Neocolor II crayons
white cardstock
white pen
your journal
your printer

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Step One:
Select a photo of you, print it on white cardstock, cut it out and glue it onto a journal page using a gel medium. Add any details you wish to the photo to integrate it on the page. For my sample, I created a shirt with a collar.

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Step Two: Look at your photo carefully. Do you see areas that are light (highlights) and areas that are dark (shadows)? We’re going to take cues from the highlights and shadows on the photo. The cues will tell us where to put certain colors.
First, take a look at the shadows. Take some Umber (or another dark color, like Night) and paint it over the dark areas.

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Step Three: Pick a color for the face. (See the section on painting portraits for tips on mixing a face color.) Paint a transparent layer of the face color over the face, and as well as the highlights and shadows that you previously painted. I typically paint over everything except the eyes. Keep this layer transparent so you can still see the nuances of the photo underneath.

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Step Four: Put some white paint on the highlights of your photos. In my sample, I put some white paint on and then used some water to blend it into the photo.

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Step Five: Paint the whites of the eyes.

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Step Six: Paint the lips white for a base coat.

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Step Seven: Use a Neocolor II crayon to color the eye.

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Step Eight: Add little details for the eyes, like the pupil, while retaining the catchlight and the outline of the eyelids.

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Step Nine: Add a bit of red paint to the skin face color you used earlier. Loosely paint the lips.

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Step Ten: Add a darker color around the outline of the lips.

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Step Eleven: Use a black Stabilo All pencil to paint the fleshy bump where the upper and lower lips meet.

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Step Twelve: Add some journaling near the eye.

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Step Thirteen: Color the collar and make a pattern on the shirt with a Neocolor II crayon. Use water to activate the Neocolor.

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Step Fourteen: Add some nontraditional face colors to add interest to the face.

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Step Fifteen: Use a white pen to add journaling in the darkest areas of the photo.

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Step Sixteen: Stencil or draw a design over the edge where the photo is glued to the journal page to join the two together. Outline the design with a Stabilo All pencil.

For more art journaling inspiration, check out Art Journal Courage and Art Journal Freedom!
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