The Perfect Subject: Your Self

Drawing activity suitable for all ages.

Arthur Shilling

Self Portrait

A multicoloured portrait of a young man's face, as he looks over his shoulder towards the viewer. Darker flesh tones with browns and tans are used on his face and hair; yellow and blue colours are in the background.

Arthur Shilling, Self Portrait, c. 1972–1977. Oil on canvas, overall: 59.7 x 49.5 cm. Gift of Paul and Jan Sabourin, 2020. © Estate of Arthur Shilling.

This is a line drawing of a self-portrait by artist Arthur Shilling. Shilling brought a bold, artistic style and fresh perspective to his art, painting many landscapes and portraits of Anishinaabe people. Here, he uses vibrant colours including red, brown, orange, green and turquoise. Although the person in the painting – the artist himself – is looking forward, notice how he is sitting. As the figure looks over one shoulder, it almost feels like the pose is both protective and strong. Why do you think the artist chose to paint himself this way?

Look closely at the colours in this painting. With varying brushstrokes, observe how the artist has placed colours next to each other: where do they blend together, complement each other or just stand out? How would you describe the overall mood of this painting? Does it have a sense of calmness or a sense of excitement?


Choose a style!

Arthur Shilling was born in the Anishinaabe community on the Chippewas of Rama First Nation reserve near Orillia in southern Ontario. He often painted his family and the people in his community.

Make a portrait of someone in your family or your community. It could be a friend, an elder or someone else you love and who makes you feel happy and safe. How would you convey something unique about the person you have chosen? What colours would you use to express a sense of happiness, kindness and love?

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