Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Challenges of Self Portraits (from a mirror, or course!)

American Artist magazine is currently running a cover competition featuring self portraits, so that gave me some incentive to try my hand at, once again, the ever-intimidating self portrait done completely from a mirror.

Some things I learned from the experience this time around:

  • You have to cope with the model moving all the time. You'd think that since I look at myself in the mirror everyday, I'd have my features memorized. But this time it felt like I had to learn them all over again, in this specific lighting, under these specific circumstances. The lighting changes everything!
  • I asked myself the question: "Do I want to idealize myself or paint me the way I look, in this moment?" True to my classical-realist tendencies, I answered with both. The idealization was unintentional, as it is most of the time when I do a portrait. I have a real empathy for my subjects, especially this one! I also included some of the not so perfect things that make me the way I do... like the dark circles under the eyes, the big chin, and the fact that my mouth is always open when I'm concentrating on a painting!
  • You can still squint at yourself as a subject, unless you're working on the eyes. :-)
  • You can only look at one eye at a time! So, I had quite the challenge making sure my eyes in the painting weren't focused in two different directions!
  • Each self portrait should be different in some way from the last. I wanted this one to include at least one hand (mission accomplished, in natural window light, with the addition of my easel and canvas inside the composition.

Self Portrait by the Window - 15" x 14" - oil on linen

I also realized (and this was completely unplanned) that in my self-portrait and the portrait I'm working on of my husband, we are wearing the same color shirts. Weird. I'll post pictures of that one soon.

Meanwhile, here is a picture from this morning's 2 1/2-hour painting excursion at the Dallas Arboretum. It was absolutely gorgeous out today, and I hope that while the beautiful fall weather lasts, I can make this a weekly thing. There are thousands of pumpkins out there right now, as well as azaleas, roses, and chysanthemums. It's just beautiful!

I may tweak this a little more in my studio, but here is my rendition of the Poetry Garden.

"The Poetry Garden" - plein air painting, in progress


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