Creative Project: Planning #1 – Digital Self Portrait

Let’s talk about my face.

As my final project is a large digital mural of sorts detailing my past creations from the earliest days to the present moment, I thought it would be fitting to digitise my face to serve as the centrepiece of it, with all the other characters spaced out around it.

Luckily I have done many self-portraits in the past, when I’ve had the inspiration to try photo-realism in my art, though normally it has lent itself more to more of a simplistic, cartoonish style.

First attempt: 30th September, 2012, sketched with pencil and scanned

You Look Like a Face

When I look at this, I can cast my mind back to an earlier time, when I didn’t really know what I was doing. I believe the mentality I adopted at the time, when trying to construct a piece that wasn’t in my usual familiar style, would be to simply copy the source photo onto the page, line for line, without a methodology to serve as a to building a foundation first to guarantee accuracy. Trying to hit a bullseye while blindfolded, I suppose.

Now I may have gotten the overall shape vaguely correct, but the lack of attention to detail and how the human face is proportioned does detract from the form and composition of the piece.

So let’s be really unfair towards my past self and fast forward a few years to a piece that is objectively much better.

Second attempt: 22nd March, 2015, sketched with pencil and paper

Self Portrait 03-15

Now you should notice that the overall form of this piece is more on point. That is, I have bothered to look into the theory of anatomy for the face, of which I only had a vague idea of before. Having the paper in portrait rather than landscape was also a wiser decision.


(Arty Factory, 2015, n.p.)

I drew from observation – looking at my face in a mirror for reference. I implemented a many-layered technique to my drawing, laying down a rough foundation of the larger shapes first (the overall shape of the head), using a light pencil, allowing for mistakes and simply redrawing the shape when the proportions look a little bit off. While having to draw a piece in multiple stages can seem like extra work and is a bit of a turn-off, I have found that it is entirely worth doing, as it ensures that the piece is of greater quality and more accurate to my vision.

It has still been a while since I tried something like this, so it’s not the most polished attempt I’ve done. Some of the facial features are not perfectly aligned – the eyes, nose and lips are a bit lopsided and disrupt the symmetry of the piece. The hair was rushed and resembles more of a scribble than something with form and texture. Nevertheless, it’s progress. It’s simply a matter of trying again and again until I can better memorise and visualise the details and translate that physically onto the page.

The piece is lacking in shading (my beard is hardly even visible), as I mostly wanted to capture the basic form as best as I could. Shading, or tone, is something I should look into next, to create more depth to the shape of the piece and advance my skills even further.

Now that I have a better grasp on form and proportion, it’s time to move on from a traditional medium to a digital format and a different style that I intend to use for the final project.

But first, I wish to say that I wholly owe the style of this next piece to Josiah Brooks who very helpfully provided a tutorial for cartoonish portraits in Adobe Flash:


(Brooks, 2014, n.p.)

  1. Basic, rough sketch of the face
  2. Inking, or Clean-up
  3. Adding shading in a slightly darker, more saturated skin tone (Use colour dropper to use colours directly from the reference photo)
  4. Flood fill in other colours– voila!

Keep that in mind – now, here’s my take on that method for my own portrait:

Third attempt: 11th October, 2014 – drawn in Adobe Flash CS6 with Wacom tablet

ben face cartoonised

This is the piece that I am most proud of, of all three versions, despite this not being the most recent.

Note the similar shading that I adopted for the piece – I am very happy with it as it gives the face some real definition without looking like nonsensical blobs. I tried to match the specifications of the video as best as I could. All in all I am very happy with the result.

Perhaps then, I could use this as a base for a more up-to-date version, since the piece is months old, and has a few flaws to be corrected (lack of symmetry in the beard, grrr). I feel that taking this piece and updating it with my current level of skill and knowledge will mean that I am demonstrating my current level of skill, while not just lazily pasting this image unedited into my final project.

This portrait was referenced from a photograph – not traced line for line, but I tried to keep very accurate to the source in the rough sketching stage. With that said, any major reworking at this point seems non-essential, but the piece does need an update. This will be the centrepiece of the final project, the thing that will stand out the most and catch the viewer’s attention. The idea is that they say “WOW!” and not “What’s wrong with his beard?!”.

Stay tuned for when I talk about the other elements that will go into the final piece – adding the of characters from the past, reworking them and featuring them in the piece!


Arty Factory (2015). Proportions of the Head and Face. Retrieved from:

Brooks, J. (2014). How to Draw a Cartoon Face. Retrieved from:

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