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Fifty Two Portraits

document your life right now and
uncover your creative self

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I turned 40 years old in 2015. I wanted to document my year, to paint the portrait of who I was at that point in my life. I decided to embark on a year-long creative project : 52 weeks, 52 self-portraits. Not selfies, self portraits. What is the difference? Intention. A self-portrait is a photograph that deliberately presents a part of you, an element of your personality that you want to put forth. It is the product of reflection, it is an art form, not a spontaneous picture.

I decided to use my DSLR because I wanted to know my camera better. In a world where your phone enables you to edit indefinitely and to share immediately, I wanted a slower process. Thought-out and visualised. I used my Nikon D-90 and my tripod. I considered buying a remote, but ended up just using the timer on the camera. I shared my portrait each week at the same time and collected them on Instagram by using the hashtag #Vs52portraits. I gave a title to each portrait and wrote out a few sentences about it. This was my gift, this is the surprising result of one year of self-reflection: the words. I had no idea that this project would awaken in me the desire to write. To use words to support the project.

I have learned so much about me, about how I understand myself, about communicating what I want to say, about my artistic skills. I was often surprised by how people reacted to certain portraits, often because they were the ones that I thought weren’t saying much but ended up speaking volumes. When you start a long-term project of this kind, it will inevitably lead you to new and unsuspected places. I am thrilled that you are here. I am so excited to be your guide in this endeavour. You will emerge with a better knowledge of you as a person and as an artist. Imagine doing this type of exercise at different periods in your life, how interesting it would be to see what has changed and what hasn’t. So maybe we will meet again a few years down the road…

Ready? Let’s go.

– Vanessa

Your teacher

Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd


Vanessa is an archaeologist and an art journaler. In 2015, she went on a
year long self-documenting project and now wants to share with you what
she has learned from doing so.


There are 52 prompts, I suggest you do one a week, but you can do them in any order you see fit and are welcome to alter or completely ignore ones that don’t speak to you to and add in your own that do. But challenge yourself to do the majority of the prompts as they will stretch you past your own ideas of the obvious things around you and will bring out ideas and aspects of yourself that you may not have been aware of. Sometimes they may be a bit scary and push past your comfort zone, but that is the point. Each week will have a prompt, some direction, information, etc about the photo and words and then the prompt will be classified into a theme. Themes include: you, places, family, style, work, life, friends.

My photos are included for reference and inspiration, you can also see how others are interpreting the them under the class hashtag #52portraitsclass.

You may want to read through all the prompts at once and reorder them to your preference, or just simply commit to reading them one a time and being committed to following that prompt. Find a ritual that works for you and follow it each week.

If you’d like to share your progress on your blog, feel free to use the following blurb:

52 Portraits is a photography course in self discovery by Vanessa and is hosted through Get Messy Art Journal. The course is a year long journey in using photography and words to turn your reflection inward and capture who you are at this phase in your life. Learn more and join the course here.

Lesson Plan

In the class

Get Messy membership

Get Messy is a catalyst for artistic growth, a guide for creative living through art journaling, a platform for rising artists of all types, and a creative community.

Visual teaching

Video, text, and image based lessons to give an all-encompassing learning experience.

Expert advice

In Get Messy classes, teachers share secrets, processes, and techniques openly and with a whole bunch of heart.

Actionable exercises

Action steps to help you begin practising what you learn right away. We kinda pride ourselves on how practical our classes are...

Print-ready workbook

A beautiful, printable workbook to accompany you on your creative adventure.

Art tribe

You don't only get the best teacher, but you get the best classmates. You have access to the course teacher, student support, and inspiration through the Get Messy Forums and the course hashtag.


Get Messy is your invitation to ignore perfection in lieu of making a mess, playing, and having serious fun. Your permission slip to ignore the dishes and work on your creative habit. Your connection to others who are on the same path as you. People who have “made it” as artists and those who are just beginning. Get Messy empowers you to live a creative life with a regular creative practice and a community of enthusiastic and creative people who totally get that feeling of too many art supplies, not enough time.

To help you really ignite that spark, Get Messy has:

Art and journaling prompts

Art technique tutorials that you can fit into your schedule

Actionable inspiration

A place to ask questions, share your unbridled enthusiasm for your favorite type of glue, and discuss living a creative life with others trying to do the same!

Digital art dates - artist-led live masterclass where you create alongside other Get Messians (this is the amazing community part we keep talking about!)

A massive library with 16 full classes, 28 past seasons, and 15 live masterclasses led by artist-teachers

Whether you’re a full-time artist or trying to fit in creative time anywhere you can, you’ll never be without creative ideas. 


I wouldn’t be able to create so much work without get messy's constant support and appreciation.

Prior to becoming a Messian, I had this black hole inside me – it asked for something, some creativity, some inspiration, but I didn’t know how to feed it. As I joined get Messy, I discovered a whole new world where creativity could be a part of your everyday life.


Get Messy will change your life. I can’t really remember pre-Get Messy anymore. Almost instantly after joining, I became more creative, more motivated to create and most importantly (for me) I met and connected with a group of the loveliest, truly like minded people for what felt like the first time ever.


I am forever grateful for this community who not only make me feel loved but also cause me to laugh…a lot! Since joining Get Messy I’ve created so much more, I’ve become more consistent in my creative practice each year since I’ve joined, and I’ve found amazing people to share life’s journey with. Get Messy has been a lifesaver and a home to me.

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