English draughtsman, printmaker, sculptor and painter. He studied first at Norwich Art School. In 1961 he entered the Slade School of Fine Arts in London. One of his rare large paintings, Two Waiting Women and B-58 Nuclear Bomber (oil on board, 1.22×1.82 m, 1963; London, J. Moores priv. col., see 1997 exh. cat., p. 177), portrays two fashionably dressed young women silhouetted against a broad expanse of lightly clouded sky whose peacefulness is broken by the sudden intrusion of a nuclear bomber.
In 1965, Self introduced a new range of subjects as a result of a trip to the United States. One group of drawings made that year, the Fall-out Shelter series, continued the theme of imminent nuclear destruction. Others featuring apparently innocuous motifs from contemporary life and consumer society, again conveyed an unexpected atmosphere of violence and sexual threat. His intention was to produce a detailed record of his society which, in the event of its destruction, would convey its essential qualities to anyone coming across his work in the future.
Deeply suspicious of the commercial art world, in 1965 Self returned permanently to Norwich. Both his subject matter and his repertoire of techniques continued to expand, taking in atmospheric Norfolk landscapes, still-lifes and quirky observations of human behaviour. In 1995 the Tate Gallery in London presented a display of their entire holdings of his work, including an important group of drawings, sculptures, paintings and prints acquired in the preceding years directly from the artist.