Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Self Portrait January 2008

Self Portrait January 2008, oil paint

I've finished it, at long last, after nearly binning it last night.

I managed to get out of work (my day job) early this afternoon, and had an hour and a half in the studio with no distractions. As if by magic, it all came together, and has ended up quite different again.

I am very happy with it. I think it's strong, and it's definitely me.
I'm undecided as to whether I want to jump straight into another self portrait, of whether I want to start something different, or maybe pick up one of the themes I started last year; a sky-scape, or a nude. I'd still like to make use of the drawings I've been doing of people at the bus stop. Mmmmmm. Lots to think about. But I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, now that this one is finally done.

Friday, 18 January 2008

a BIG painting

Last night my head was filled once again with images of a painting I need to do. It was a full length self-portrait. I couldn't make out the clothing, but my body is turned towards the right, and behind me, to the left, the background is dark, and full of images that haunt my conscience. To the right the background is a shimmering pale yellow mixed with the palest of blues. My left hand is reaching behind me, but my body and face are turned to the light, the right. There were ghosts of objects in the light too, which I don't want to dwell on yet. It's not that I'm not wanting to talk about them at all, it's just that they're not fully formed yet and I don't want to solidify the hints I can feel floating in my head, I want to leave them loose at the moment.
I also had a revelation about Jackson Pollock the other evening, but I'll talk about that another time.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

.. grrrrrr!

Feelings of frustration, deflation, anger...... I printed off yesterday's image and drew over it to make the corrections of nose, eye etc. Now I think the whole face is too long and horsey. Oh flippin heck!!!!!!
Anyway I will persevere. Maybe it's the 'goatee' that's dragging my eye down. Maybe when I add the hair over the top it will soften the whole look. This painting is getting painful for me to work on, but I'm determined to finish it to some level of satisfaction before I move on.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

... arghhh!

Yes, I've grown a beard. I'm fed up with my chin, so I'm going to ignore it for a bit. I ended up tonking it ;laying on paper and pressing to remove some of the paint, because I'd re-worked it so many times that the paint was now thick and anything I tried to paint over it was just mushing in with the layers underneath.
Good news - the nose is now the right width, but I can see from this photo that the bulbous bit is still too small.
I'm happy with the way the forehead is shaping up, and I've found the perfect palette - alizarin crimson, lemon yellow, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, paynes grey and titanium white.
The reflected light from the white wall in my studio is lightening the left side of my face and adding complications, so I'm going to hang some black paper to cast that side of my face into shadow. Hopefully that will simplify the shadows for me.
Will I ever get there?

#1 self portrait

November 2007

Jan 2008 Working on a canvas I started last year, I decided to paint myself with my eyes closed. To do this, looking in the mirror, I could only close one eye at a time. I had to be aware of how looking through one eye distorts the angle you view things at, especially at such a close range. Being able to see things with both eyes, and thus perceiving depth, helps enormously when I'm painting; a drawing done from life always communicates more depth than a drawing I do from a photograph, no matter what tricks I use.

I worked in some hair before I stopped today, just to soften the face and to add some dynamics.

Next I want to tone down the left of my face, then get to grips with my forehead.
My mouth is still a tiny bit too high , my nose is too narrow and my chin is too small overall. But, oil paint is the most fantastic medium for making corrections. I don't know why I procrastinate so much in working with oils.

Monday, 14 January 2008

My ultimate self-portrait

I see myself with dark eyes, maybe even closed eyes, but frowning, concentrating. My hair is wild, as if a hot wind is blowing from beneath, and my lips are tight shut. The background is a deep, dull colour, maybe a flat red with touches of grey. The highlights on my nose, cheeks and eyebrows are delicate and cold, and the shadowed areas are warmer. Now all I need is the technique to carry this off. Note that I didn't say 'talent' because I didn't want to invite a deluge of compliments. Maybe I'll work on this in a series of mediums; inks and pen, marker pen, acrylics and collage, oils (scary thought - oils are too much like 'real' art for me still).
I want the face to be active, as though it's changing through emotions as you look at it, not frozen in time. I want to capture a whole event, rather than just a second's snap shot. I also want it to be emerging from the canvas, as though the canvas is too small for it, and the energy portrayed is trying to get out. Could I paint it with the eyes closed, and yet still capture the dynamics of the emotions?

Four faces

These weren't done today as I'm off work poorly. But I promised myself I'd update my blog daily if at all possible, so these are here to keep my promise. I hope to be back to work (paid work) tomorrow, and maybe do some more art soon.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Self Portraits take perseverance

At least I've made a start, blocking in basic colours and shapes with soft pastels. And I'm smiling (in the picture at least). In reality I have a cracking headache, and paracetamol hasn't helped so far.

Anyway, I can see I need to re-shape this before I can continue.

My eyes are too big, my mouth is too high, my ear is too small and my left cheek is too low. Apart from that, it's awful. And I've decided that this isn't a flattering pose at all, emphasizing my double chin. On the basis that I'm not even five feet tall, no-one usually gets to see me from below either. Because I'm so short, I lift my chin when viewing the world, otherwise I'm peering though my eyebrows. As I'm doing the same automatically when looking in the mirror, I see myself as all chin and neck. Okay, I'm going to smudge this out, and then work over it, looking at my face from a slightly different angle. Then I'm going to scoop out my brain and put it in the freezer to see if that will help my headache.

No lines, only shapes & colour

That's today's project, as suggested by my older sister. So I've scaled up a previous drawing onto watercolour paper, so I don't have to worry too much about proportions. Now I'm off to choose some music, and make another coffee, and get started on it. Here goes .......

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Che Guevara lookalike

The similarity to Che wasn't at all intentional.
That aside, I love how this has come out, drips included. And it's very much like the image in my head during my nap today.
Lisa, at Eudaemonia has been talking about perfectionism being paralyzing, and she's right. Even though I've been very productive these last few days, I'm still shadowed by doubts and fears. Lisa, and all those who comment on my blog, or even those who just take the time to drop by, all have a positive effect on me and my work.

A dream of me

I had a nap this afternoon. I bet you're not surprised, as I had a busy morning. As I drifted off, an image developed in my mind's eye; dark staring eyes, a small sculptured nose, wild wiry hair radiating from the head, all on a hot yellow background.

... and finally

I think I've done as much as I want to on this. I'm not happy with the effect of the forehead where I tried to correct the shadow. Maybe I should have just left it as it was. Not to worry. Boy, I look miserable. But I'm not really.

Okay, the next self portrait I do will be of a 'happy' me.

I may go back and make the eyes as dark as the jumper. I'm happy with the hair and the ear, and the soft shape of the jumper matches my puffy face (Post-Christmas Bloat would be an apt title for this).

I like the general pose I've used here, and I think the proportions are fine, so I may use this as a basis for a much bigger drawing. This is A3 size, so I may make a start on an A1-sized drawing next.

.. later the same morning....

Here's the next stage. I thought I was finished til I saw it reproduced here. I want to darken the background and correct the size of the mouth. I like the highlight down the side of the face, and darkening the background should make the paper colour on the face appear lighter. I don't want to use the brush pen to do that, but I'm not sure if the paper will take an ink wash. I may use soft pastels and cotton wool. And the shadow on the forehead is now too dark in relation to the rest, so that needs correcting somehow. I'm not sure yet if I'll darken the hair, or leave it sketchy. Mmmm. Time to go back and do some more. Yes, I think I'll continue working on this piece for a while yet.

Taking my time

Today I decided to spend some time working on a single drawing, rather than just rushing a couple off. I started with the black brush pen, on a grey pastel paper (you don't really want me to go into the kitchen to get the actual pen & paper brand details for you I hope). I looked and looked in the mirror before setting pen to paper. I was grabbed by the shadow shape cast on my forehead, so I started rendering that first. Things went quite smoothly as I drew the left eye and then the nose. I paused and measured carefully before placing the right eye. Then I picked up three grey shades of brush pens, and started adding in softer shadows.
Now I've stopped to make a cup of coffee and publish this post. When I go back in a minute I think I'll take some more measurements and mark them out in the palest grey before I continue.
At the same time I'm listening to Brahm's German Requiem, as I'm visiting my older sister in Manchester next weekend to take part in a singing day with her choir, St George's Singers. It's quite a solemn piece of music,; it's a Requiem after all. What I mean is that it's not very dynamic. Some Requiems have dramatic crescendos, but this one seems a bit flat. Quite different to Carl Orff's Carmina Burana which we did last year. Hang on, can I hear raised female voices coming from the kitchen? Maybe it's hotted up a bit. I'll post more later today, I'm sure.

Friday, 11 January 2008

The thinking behind my self portraits

A self portrait is a drawing or painting I do whilst looking at myself in the mirror . But some of them don't look like me, either because I got the proportions wrong, or because I was concentrating on emphasising something which distorts what I see in the mirror. The purpose of the self portraits I'm doing at the moment is not to create an accurate and life-like likeness of my face. Here's a photo of my face. But the photo isn't 'me' either; it's a recreation of the light which reflected off my face that particular day, influenced by the photographic and printing (or computer & VDU) facilities it's reproduced on. But it's still not 'me'. Come round and meet me, and look at my face, but when I'm dead you can look at my face, and it's won't be 'me'. I could be involved in a car crash, and have extensive plastic surgery, changing my face...... You get the idea.
Therefore, to say that a particular self portrait on paper or canvas is wrong because it doesn't look like me is meaningless.
Let me repeat myself - the self portraits I'm doing are drawings or paintings done whilst looking at myself in the mirror. The resulting drawing I do may bear little resemblence to my actual face, but ask yourself, does it matter?

Thursday, 10 January 2008

... continued from earlier

self portrait 10.1.08 soft pastels

Working in soft pastels I built this up quite quickly. I quit when I saw that the proportions were wrong, my face is too long and my eyes too small. So I turned the page and started again.

The second pastel study was much better. The proportions were correct this time and I liked the modelling I'd achieved.self portrait 10.1.08 sof pastels The mouth is too far right, the nose is a little too small, and I need to work on the chin, and a million other things that are wrong. But overall, I was happy with it.

Time to change medium, so I stayed with the pastel colour pad I was working in and grabbed the brush pens. I started working in minute detail with the black, then I added the white. Next I worked over this with pale and a medium grey brush pens, adding shadows and modelling, and toning down some of the white.

self portrait 10.1.08 brush pens and white

Although I recognise that the last one I did yesterday would look good on my wall, I'm happiest with the fifth one.

A very productive evening

I've managed to change my hours at work which means more time for my family AND more time for my art.

This afternoon, whilst the kids ate their tea, I stood in the kitchen with a big mirror, and my table-top easel, working on more self portraits. Yes, more self portraits. I'm cheap, you see, and available to pose whenever I want to draw. Self portraits are also something I've done since an early age. My first ever oil painting was of myself. I have done some from photos but I prefer to work from a mirror.

self portrait, left handed,charcoal 10.1.08

I started off today working left-handed again, and though the resulting drawing isn't great in itself, I found myself working hard, both with my eyes and my hand.

During the second drawing I was looking mostly in the mirror and not paying much attention to what was coming out on the paper.

self portrait charcoal 10.1.08

The third drawing I left incomplete as I really liked the modelling of the eye and cheek. When I looked at what I'd done I lost my nerve and stopped.

After those three, I decided to work more on the drawings themselves, looking at what I'd done, and re-working areas over and over until I was happy. I'll publish those later for you to seeself portrait eye charcoal 10.1.08.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

.... and another.

This one was great fun to do. I started on the nose, and worked across to my right eye (which you can see on the right, because it was drawn using a mirror, as was yesterday's). Then my right arm got tired, so I switched the charcoal to my left hand and WOW. Instead of my right hand making ''practised' marks, and working on automatic, I had to constantly look at what my left hand was drawing, and re-work the lines. All of sudden I was working harder, looking harder, and it was working well. So, my next task is to draw more with my left hand, and see what emerges. I had no idea that my right hand had it's own memory, and was being lazy all this time. What a revelation.

A self portrait

self portrait in soft pastels Jan 2008
I made time to draw this today. I need to make time for my art. More about that later.
This is not a flattering portrait, but I'm keeping it, and showing it to you. It was interesting separating my face into tones, and keeping the brown paper colour, only touching up where I had to with a reddy-brown pastel where I'd gone too wrong. I chose a dark blue for the darks, as the black was just too dark.
Then, because I was frowning as I concentrated, I noticed my wrinkled forehead, so decided to add that. As I said, it's not a flattering portrait; my hair is thin, my skin bloated and wrinkled. But I'm trying to get beyond only showing the beauty, the 'nice', and instead want to include the imperfections. I hope to strike a balance eventually, but for now I'm swinging to the extreme. Watch this space, if you have the stomach for it.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

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