Four Reasons Why Self-Portraits Are Better Than “Selfies”

2016 Artwork Why Are self-portraits better than selfies

Although the full-size version of the self-portrait in this article’s illustration won’t be posted here until early-mid December, I thought that I’d talk about self-portraits today since it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about this subject.

So, for today, I thought that I’d look at some of the reasons why self-portraits are a lot better than the ‘selfie’ photos that seem to be in fashion at the moment.

Hopefully, this won’t turn into a cynical article about the vapid and pointless this exciting and self-affirming modern trend. But, I’m not holding out much hope….

1) It requires more thought and means more: Taking a ‘selfie’ photo just involves holding a smartphone above your head (or using one of those idiotic innovative “selfie sticks”) and pressing a button. You can take a selfie in less than five seconds.

However, even if you’re basing your self-portrait on a photo (as I did) then you’ve still got to put a lot more creative thought into it. You have to learn how to copy from sight alone and you have to have had some art practice before you begin. Not only that, since you’re responsible for every aspect of your painting or drawing, you have to make a lot of additional creative choices too.

For example, do you use a particular colour scheme in your self-portrait? Do you try to represent the lighting accurately, or do you take a more “ligne claire” approach? Do you make the self-portrait look realistic or do you go for something more cartoonish?

This might sound a lot more involved and time-consuming than simply taking a quick “selfie” photo of yourself, but it is a hundred times more rewarding. Because you’ve put a lot more effort into the self-portrait and have had more choice in how it was made, you’ll end up with something that will mean a lot more to you than just a quick photo.

2) You’ll look better: Not everyone is photogenic. For some reason that I’ll never understand, it’s possible look perfectly ok in real life but, as soon as one of those bloody photographic machines a camera gets involved, the resulting photo can only have something like a 5% chance of even looking vaguely ok.

However, with self-portraits, none of this is an issue. Even if you’re basing your self-portrait on a photo, then you still have absolute creative control. In other words, you can make your self-portrait look slightly better than the photo (or, rather, correct some of the mistakes that photographs can have). After all, since it’s a painting, no-one expects it to be 100% realistic.

When an artist makes a portrait or a self-portrait, a certain amount of artistic licence is expected. After all, if you want a “100% realistic” picture, then you’d take a photo instead. So, no-one will really mind if you make your self-portrait more flattering than a photograph might be.

3) The reasons are different: From what I’ve read about “selfie” photos, the main point of them often isn’t to take a picture of yourself, but to declare to the world “I’m on holiday!”, “I’m in a restaurant!” orI’m a total and utter…. They come from a strange need to provide the internet with constant photographic proof of your existence.

Because self-portraits are a lot less immediate and significantly less “realistic”, the reasons behind them are significantly different. When you make a self-portrait, you might be expressing yourself in a more creative way. You might be trying to test your art skills. You might dislike your previous self-portrait and want to paint a better one. There are hundreds of possible reasons for wanting to make a self-portrait.

But, above all, the reason behind it is probably something more interesting than “I can’t be bothered to write a diary“.

4) People will be more interested: Let’s face it, there are a lot of “selfies” on the internet. “Social media” sites are absolutely teeming with them. If you enjoy looking at those kinds of sites, then you’ll probably encounter several “selfies” every day. There’s nothing particularly special or interesting about seeing hundreds of photos, all taken from the same angle and all displaying the same range of mundane backgrounds.

However, a self-portrait is something different! Even if you painted it out of nothing more than sheer vanity, then you’re going to end up with something that looks unique and different. You’re going to end up with something that stands out from the generic crowd of similar “selfie” photos.

In other words, even if you make a self-portrait out of sheer vanity, it’ll still be something that other people will probably find interesting.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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