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The Self Portrait: Beyond the Surface

Artists have been using themselves as models since humans first made marks on the caves of Lascaux, France. However, it was not until the early Renaissance that artists selected themselves as the central subject matter in works of art. The mirror has not lost its appeal since then. Our fascination continues today with the enormous popularity of “selfies.” Across time, the most powerful self-portraits have gone beyond the surface to reveal something personal, specific and revealing about the artist. A rich history of self-portraits will provide the foundation for this course. Exploring variations in scale, style, media, format, pose, coloration and narrative, we will review self-portraits by Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh, Gustave Courbet, Frida Kahlo, Egon Schiele, Max Beckmann, Gwen John, Mary Cassatt, Cindy Sherman, Jenny Saville, and Alice Neel. Class demonstrations will highlight a range of techniques including paint and pencil. Participants will then embark on their own self-portrait journey, starting with a photograph and using the media of their choice. This course will include substantial in-class time devoted to producing one or more self-portraits. Artists at all levels are welcome. This class will include a museum visit. Limited enrollment

Note: Fee does not include cost of supplies, approximately $55.

Topics will include the following:

• Examples of innovative self-portraits
• Creating a narrative
• Selecting the right medium to match the concept
• Using the mirror and/or setting up the photoshoot
• Choosing the perfect palette
• Scale and meaning

Instructor: Ellen Orseck is a Houston-based artist whose artwork has been exhibited across Houston and Texas, as well as in New York City and Lima, Peru. She has been awarded several commissions from state art councils, corporate collections and private patrons and was a finalist for The Hunting Prize. Ms. Orseck is represented by Nicole Longnecker Gallery in Houston. Her education includes four years at the Glassell School of Art. Ms. Orseck holds an M.A. in painting from New York University and an M.A. in museum education from George Washington University.

Course Details

The Self Portrait: Beyond the Surface
  • Ellen Orseck
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Eight Wednesdays
February 22-April 12
Day of the Week
Course Format
2.0 CEUs
Time of Day
6:30-9 p.m.
Rice Alumni: $302
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