self portrait

Last week’s painting homework was focused on self portraits. Three portraits—two from life and one from a photo. I’m a little uncomfortable with depicting myself in any way, whether it’s a selfie on my phone or a formal portrait in oil paint. I just don’t like it. It’s too much ‘me’ or looks nothing like me. Inevitably, something is messed up that leads to me burying my drawing or painting or photo under everything else and pretending it never happened.  If I have to do a self portrait, I go for a pose that hides my face or obscures it, so I can avoid the awkward moment of stepping back and seeing a creepy face that could maybe, possibly, be mine.

My first two portraits for the assignment were no exception—I cringed as soon as I put my brush down. These, needless to say, were not documented and will soon be shoved into my reject pile, though they provided a great learning experience. The second part of the assignment was a more time-intensive portrait, to be done in the style of a selected portrait artist. My artist was Jenny Saville, a British painter who focuses on the female body in a realistic and raw way. She paints the imperfections, the unattractive angles. She works on a huge scale (around 8×8 feet, typically) which leaves her figures towering over viewers. Her paint is layered and textured, and she moves from cool to warm tones to create a color landscape even in one area of skin. It was ambitious to choose her for this project, but I learned a lot: layering, using big brush strokes, and utilizing the full range of colors in skin. I also learned to embrace the unattractive angle, even when it’s my own face.

I took a few pictures during the process to try to show the different layers built up, but also to help myself critique in-progress. Also included are some aesthetic palettes, and the underpainting for one of my first two self portraits, which looks more like me than the final product.

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