Every few paintings, I try and paint either a portrait or a figurative painting. These paintings generally scare the crap out of me, but I know I’ll never get any better if I avoid painting things that challenge me (faces, hands, crowds, etc.), so there it is!
Strangely, I find self-portraits slightly less unnerving. I think it’s because I’m not afraid of upsetting the subject of the painting. I’m getting pretty comfortable with my wrinkles, scars and rapidly greying hair. Also, I find it easier with a self-portrait to simplify shapes and determine relative values. That voice in your head that gets in the way of drawing and painting, telling you what it thinks you should draw rather than what you see, seems to go silent when I am working on a self-portrait.
This self-portrait is from a reference photo taken on the bluff in the winter (hence the big puffy jacket). I chose this pose to paint because it was nice to try a portrait without the eyes staring right back at you – something that can be slightly unsettling. Also, the photo was taken from a slightly lower angle, giving this self-portrait a vaguely heroic effect. I also painted this over a colour test panel I did for the previous painting “I hold my breath”. At first I was going to paint this as a square painting (I only gessoed the top portion). Then after I got working on the painting, I thought why not just paint in more jacket. As a result, I think that painting isn’t quite as balanced as I’d like it to be – the eyes are a touch too high in the painting. However, as a fairly quick study, it accomplished it’s mission. At least people recognize me in the painting (although several people have said I look like Ernest Hemingway, which I choose to take as a compliment).
Finally, this is my last painting done while staying in our friend’s cabin. Next week we are moving onto the Bluff for a summer of glamping (the Love Shack now has a bedroom, living room and kitchen, so we won’t be roughing it). I’m not sure how much painting I will get done this summer as it is going to be a busy time with landscaping and house construction.