I love landscapes, but I also love figure drawing and portraiture. At some point on this artistic journey, I want to do people paintings. I’m fascinated by faces — and by the human body, too. Of course, learning to paint real people will require a lot of practice. I’m not at that point yet.
Still, I enjoyed stepping way out of my comfort zone and painting my colorful Woman with Flowers. Today, I stepped out of my comfort zone to paint a quick selfie, although the final result looks nothing like me. The only actual similarity is that the lady in the self-portrait and I both have blue eyes, and we’re both wearing glasses.
I was inspired to do this by several things. First, as I mentioned above, was my own interest in and desire to eventually paint portraits and figures. Second was an article I read this morning in an issue of Artist magazine, featuring the Selfie Drawings of Carla Gannis. The issue is all about self-portraits, and I’m going to read it eagerly. My third inspiration came from a recent art club meeting — which I did not attend. The topic for the program was, you guessed it, self-portraits. Members were to bring a recent photo and have a go at drawing or painting themselves. I was so intimidated by the thought I skipped out altogether.
Of course, I made no serious attempt to draw and paint this. It was intended to be a quick and fun little art project, and that’s exactly what it was. I didn’t work from any photos of myself. I just took a very small canvas panel (5 x 7), picked up a piece of charcoal, then stood in front of the mirror and hastily drew an image of what I saw.
Painting my image was interesting, to say the least. I really had no idea where to begin or how to approach the project. I started painting in hair, then worked on mixing a skin tone. The charcoal on the canvas mixed itself right into my paint, but I just shrugged and went on painting. After coloring in my complexion, I added the facial features and my glasses, making no attempt at realism. I just wanted something that resembled a human, and I’m pleased that I accomplished just that.
Many artists have done self-portraits. The idea of doing a self-portrait seems to be all wrapped up in personal identity, showing the world who we are, or, at least, how we see ourselves. Rembrandt, it’s said, actually dressed up in different costumes for many of the self-portraits he painted.
A self-portrait is often seen as a look into the mind or soul of an artist. Painting oneself is a way of depicting our unique perspective or showing a part of our personal narrative.
I guess if I wanted to interpret my self-portrait, I’d say it does reveal a few things about me. I’m casual, I’m comfortable, and I have messy hair.
A self portrait may have psychological implications, cultural biases, and gender or sexual overtones. Or it may just be a quick little art project on a summer morning, a way of playing around with paints and challenging oneself to do something way out of the ordinary.
So, now, I challenge you! Pick up a pencil or grab your paints and do a quick self-portrait. Nothing fancy. Nothing fine. Just a light-hearted look at who you are.
Go ahead. I dare you!