Selfies and Why We Love Them


Master artists have painted their own portraits beginning in the Renaissance, and some artists multiple times throughout their painting lives. During the Renaissance the portrait became a subject artists were commissioned to paint for wealthy patrons, and mirrors became less expensive and therefore available to more people. Painters could use their own image as a way to explore the human form in shape and color, and use that knowledge in their commissioned portraits.

Selfies are the modern expression of self-portraiture due to the ubiquity of cell phone cameras and social media. If the masters thought self-portraiture was a valuable painting experience, we can also learn much from painting a selfie.

Classical Christian schools emphasize the importance of copying and emulating the master artists as a way to cultivate our knowledge and understanding of the beauty God created for us in this world. Ornamentation was commanded by God in the building of his temple, and was used to honor God. We can also honor God as painters of beauty.

Recently, I had the privilege of instructing the High School painting students how to design and paint “Selfie” self-portraits. Students displayed remarkable patience and diligence as they worked an average of 30 hours on painting, with about the same amount of time in the preparation to paint. The finished results were better than I ever expected, and my favorite part of the project was getting to know each student better as they talked about themselves during the project.

Creativity through painting can be a very relaxing endeavor and can cause the painter to reflect on themselves as they recreate their own image, as an image-bearer of God. He created His image in us, a humbling experience when reflected upon. This project was valuable as an art learning experience, and also as a spiritual learning experience, because we have value as God’s image-bearers.

The above article was written by Lorrie Corlew, an experienced art instructor of private and small group classes for children and adults. Her work is currently represented in the New Braunfels Art League Main Gallery.