Bag Self Portrait – An Art Therapy Intervention

bag self portrait 1

For this art therapy activity you’ll at least need a brown paper bag. The participant will create a self-portrait on the side of a brown paper bag. It can be made with paint, crayons, colored pencils, markers, hair, fabric, etc. Either side of the bag can be used to express certain things. For example, if you wanted to represent your fears and dreams, or goals and aspirations. The participant can also create a eulogy that explains how they would like to be remembered when they’re gone. Another idea for this art activity is to have the participant put things inside the paper bag that make them the person they are. It can be pictures of things, personal items, books, CDs, paintings…anything.

A reader was so kind to submit pictures of his Paper Bag Self Portrait Activity:


  1. Kristi says

    This was a really good idea. We used this, but changed it a little and had them draw the self portrait on the outside of the bag, but then had them draw what they hide from the rest of the world on the inside. This had them look at how incongruent their feelings are to what they show to the rest of the world. Everyone participated and enjoyed the activity.

  2. mika says

    Hi everybody!
    i am student at the design academy of Eindhoven (netherlands) and i am making a project about sharing experiences. I really enjoy this paper bag excercise and i would like to know more about it.
    who “invent/design” it ? and how did it come ?(i mean how the goals of the assignement have been defined?).
    where can i get some pictures of paper s bag made by people ?(do you have some that you could send to me?)
    this is only an excercise, spontaneous. Do you think there is a way to extend it in the time (in order to make it deeper and stronger?) ? do you ever have any idea or wishes about the excercise (spread it, bring it to more people,to make an exhibition of the results ???)
    i would be glad to get some answers because i just really like this way of making things (art therapy).
    thanks by advance.

  3. Monica says

    I love this activity! This is very creative. I’m definitely going to incorporate this into my Art Expressions class! Thanks for the idea!

  4. rachel says

    I found this site while researching for an assignment on PTSD therapy! It’s amazing and incredibly inspiring!

  5. nicole mitchell says

    thank you so much for sharing your ideas. that’s a wonderful way of using art therapy.. I have always been fascinated with subject. I can’t wait to see/hear more


  6. Nora Sartori says

    me encantan estos ejercicios .Soy de Argentina y me gustaria recibir informacion.

  7. says

    I work closely with the Department of Human Services in my city. A lot of my clients are being removed from the home and placed in temporary and/or adoptive homes. This activity will be brilliant for them! Help them bridge their old life with the new one. Thank you for sharing! I will be subscribing.

    N. Hall, MHR, LADC-C

  8. Heather says

    I used this with a group of adolescents and added a step. I had them go back and take the paper out and with a separate color write down a positive alternative thought they could have. Thus they physically altered the text as they would learn to cognitively change their maladaptive thoughts.

  9. Cathy says

    This is a very generous site because I have got so many ideas from it-usually you have to pay hugely to get any ideas.
    The paperbag idea is great and I am going to get the student to fill the bag with objects/items which are special to them,or express certain feelings,or which illustrate their good qualities. It can be returned to as a reminder then from time to time.

    Thanks agin

  10. Andrea Santiago says

    I love this website! I am not particularly a creative or artsy person, but I enjoy using art with the families I work along with. This site has given me so many ideas to use that will help others heal. Thank you for sharing your wonderful and therapeutic ideas to help those of us that are a bit more challenged with the use of art. Thank you!

  11. Paula says

    Koristila sam u kreativnoj radionoci s u?enicima,ideju ukrašavanja torbe raznim dekorativnim materijalima.Papir raznih boja struktura naro?ito je dobar jer ga dijete može mijenjati svojom aktivnoš?u.Takva aktivnost bila je uspješna,daje djeci osje?aj zadovoljstva uspjehom i samopouzdanje.

    English translation: I used to have creative radionoci? Pupils, the idea of decorating bags various decorative materijalima.Papir different color structure outlined specific is good because it can change your child activi? U.Takva activity was successful, gives children the feeling of satisfaction success and confidence.

  12. Christine Ann says

    Love this directive! I’ve begun to compile a collection of activities to utilize with groups of middle-school aged boys considered at-risk….I think they would have fun with this. Thank you!

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