ILLUS | self-portrait

starting off illustration with designers, we were tasked to come up with a stylised self-portrait of ourselves with the things I loved.

Firstly, I started off with penning down the things I loved and brainstormed from there.

I decided on the following words: pasta, dogs, music, flowers

Next, I started thinking about the style I want to go forth. digital illustration? traditional illustration? watercolour? pen? pencil? and the list goes down…

After some dilemma with myself, I chose to do a traditional illustration with pen. I went to Pinterest to get some inspiration and I sure found some that coincides with the style I settled for!

I referenced my work to the works of the following artists:

Iain MAcarthur


I really like the way he used pen to do such a detailed portrait illustration! Thick and thin lines were also heavily used to show contrast. I also liked the way he incorporated elements into the female’s hair. Overall, it’s a very well done piece.

henn kim

I really like her style of work as she plays with the tonal range of black and white only, and her work has a clean, slate look.

I’m also very into blackwork sketches and tattoos, and I want to express my self-portrait using that method, and think that Henn Kim’s work is really suitable.

Illustration theme: Blackwork tattoo sketch, using pens. 

I came up with several layouts based on the keywords I decided upon.

These are just basic rough sketches of the layout I wanted. Before doing a more detailed sketch, I wanted to sketch out the keywords I decided on.

Here are detailed sketches of my proposed layouts.

layout 1

I did a portrait illustration of my face, with my hair being elements of the things I love. I split the hair into half, one side filled with pasta, and the other side – dogs and flowers. I used a radio to replace my nose as I like music, and I have the tendency to flare my nostrils and they look like they’re dancing to music!

layout 2

To show my portrait, I used glass pieces. Glass are like mirrors, which shows a reflection of ourselves. I wanted to use the glass pieces to show a reflection of myself and the things I like. Thus I had a mixture of my face, and things I like in different pieces of glass.

layout 4

In this layout, I wanted to use the concept of my lower body going into the cassette tape, and my upper body part coming out of the polaroid camera.
Between both the tape and camera, I included things I liked. However I felt that this piece is not very cohesive and there isn’t a main focal point, with everything spread out within the page.

layout 4

In this layout, it’s a plate of pasta! I tried to portray a mountain of pasta, wth things I like and I am – the meatballs of this dish! I like this concept as I think it’s really cute that it’s a plate of pasta. However, I felt that it does not show the self-portrait of me that much as I’m not the focal point.

Amongst all 4 layouts, many had different views. During the group critique, I tried asking for the class to vote for the design they like best / I should go forth with. However there are mixed opinions and it ended up in a tie between Concept 1 and 2.

After a consult with Lisa, she recommended me to proceed with Concept 1 as it fits the theme – self-portrait illustration, compared to the others. Some notes for me to take for Concept 1 was:
adding meatballs, pasta sauce, and different variety of pasta.
I should also make The Eye more realistic.
Add details to fill up the gap at the right side of the hair.

Following the critique and consult session, I was clearer about which idea to go with and how to make it better.

As I’m using traditional illustration, I used A3 paper and hand-drew it all over again. I’m pretty satisfied with the final outcome of the assignment! Compared to the detailed sketch, this was really wayyyy better!

This is the final artwork, after some lighting edits on Photoshop!


I really really enjoyed the process of producing my self-portrait! I haven’t been in touch with pen sketching in the longest time ever, and being able to touch on it, and illustrate things I like, it just makes me really happy! Maybe one day, I’ll be confident enough to draw something and tattoo it on myself!!! #randomthought

Till then,


Leave a Reply