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

Messy Artist values

Being a Messy Artist means embracing the messy middle, valuing connection, being enthusiastic, and kind.

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.

This class is included in the Get Messy Membership or available for purchase on its own.

As a member of Get Messy, you have access to the class as long as you are a Get Messy member.  If you prefer to have lifetime access, you may purchase this class separately. This means that you will pay a one time fee for access regardless of your status as a member. Lifetime access is not tied to a membership and will give you access for the lifetime of Get Messy. As long as this class is offered, you will have access. 


Included in the Get Messy membership

$29 per month 

Access to the class as long as you are a Get Messy member.

Access to the entire Get Messy library – 20+ classes, 30+ seasons, 1000+ art journaling lessons, 100+ teachers

14 day money back guarantee

One-time Payment

Access only to the class


Lifetime access to the class, regardless of your status as a Get Messy member

14 day money back guarantee

Should I choose the one-time payment or membership option?

You have the option for purchasing this class on its own or as part of the membership. 

The choice depends on how you create.

Membership: the Get Messy membership is here for the creative soul with restless hands and a busy mind (and schedule), ready to cultivate a consistent art habit that allows you to release your truth, emotions and dreams onto the page. For those who prefer to live an all-encompassing creative life with catalysts that spur on the creative habit.

One-time payment: for the creative who loves knuckling down and diving deep into a class. Someone who prefers to focus on one thing and take the time it requires before moving onto the next. The bonus is that you get to keep the class forever and it will wait for you during your busy seasons and be there when you’re ready again. You might also be wanting to test the Get Messy teaching style out a bit and this is a good way to dip your toes in.