Sunday, February 27, 2011

Self Portrait on Yellowed Paper

Tonight I experimented with the yellowed newsprint paper again, this time painting a quick self portrait. I picked out a photograph of myself to reference and started sketching.

 Again I left out the ink and kept it strictly pencil and watercolor. For the most part I think it went well, although I will have to change the amount of water I use with the darker pigments as they kind of thicken on the page. I think this paper works best when light colors and washes are applied. I planned to crop out everything but my head and shoulders, but decided to do a full illustration anyway. I kept it simple and fun for myself: sitting upon a branch, drawing, surrounded by some of our animals. The surly Siamese is Elvis and the rodent perched upon his shoulder is Atticus, our eldest rat. The little kitty drifting placidly in the sky beside me is Puck, our young black cat who is missing his right back leg (though you would never know it, he is remarkably active). It's certainly not my strongest painting, but not bad for 45 minutes.

One of my favorite aspects of self portraits is how very easy it is to paint exactly what you wish. You really have only yourself to please. If you love the results, you can proudly display it. If you dislike the results you can pretend you're Dorian Gray and just hang it in the back of the closet. 

I used to hate self portraits, however the last few years I have found myself dabbling in them more and more. Now I feel that creative folks should attempt them at least once a year. Think of it as an emotional snap shot. Usually a person has one nice photograph of themselves taken annually, a portrait that starts in grade school and continues through holidays and life events. It chronicles the physical changes on the face and body. A yearly self portrait follows the changes in ability, medium, emotion, and taste. A self portrait needn't be a drawing, photographers should take their own photo any way they wish, sculptors should mold themselves--quilters should capture themselves in stitch and thread. Jewelry makers ought to try a cameo or a charm bracelet that represents that year. You get the idea!

Years from now when I look back on this portrait I'll remember the lovely yellowed paper I bought secondhand. I'll remember I was finally enjoying the efforts of growing my hair long over a few years. And I'll remember where I was in my life that brought that optimistic little smile to my face.

Incidentally, the necklace I am wearing in my portrait has become a new favorite. It was a gift from Ryan on Valentine's Day. It's painted very simply here as the illustration itself is so small, but here's a photograph of it! He bought it from Bead Couture by Steph (click on the link to visit her etsy shop!) Two sparrows are carrying a beautiful little envelope that opens up so that little notes can be tucked inside. Ryan surprises me with a new one every few days :) How wonderful is that? I've worn it every day since he gave it to me, so naturally it made its way into my new portrait.

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