Art and Design


Most portraits are painted at about the size of the people they portray, or much smaller. Kings and queens were often painted bigger to be impressive.

Shani Rhys James paints self-portraits slightly larger than reality. She examines herself in detail. She does not make her self-portraits flattering but often shows herself wearing old overalls in a messy studio.

Studio; Self-Portrait (1993) shows her standing, so it is a big painting: 178 cm high. Her figure fills the height of the canvas, which is about 25 cm taller than the artist in reality. To look at the painting at its real size you might need to enlarge details or project it on the wall. The artist’s head should be about 28 cm high.

© Shani Rhys James. All rights reserved, DACS 2018

You can see other examples of her self-portraits on ArtUK. Many are just her head, slightly enlarged. You can find the sizes below the pictures when you click on them. 


You will need drawing or painting materials and a ruler.

  • You are going to quickly draw or paint three portraits at different scales. You could work in pairs to draw each other, or for homework you could do a self-portrait in a mirror.
  • Use a ruler to measure the height and width of your subject’s head.
  • Make a portrait exactly the same size, so 1 cm on your paper represents 1 cm of the real subject (1:1)
  • Make another portrait a quarter the size, so 1 cm on your paper represents 4 cm (1:4)
  • Make another portrait double the size, so 2 cm on your paper represents 1 cm in reality (2:1)
  • Discuss the portraits. Which do you like best? Is the amount of detail different? Is the mood or effect different?


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