Self Portrait with Flowers
June 08, 2010
20" x 16"
Oil on Canvas
Last year I did a self portrait from the same set of reference material as this one. After it was completed I felt like I wanted to do another. I felt I had learned so much through the process of that first one that I was curious to see what I could do with the next. Finally the opportunity arrived. For me portraiture is more demanding than a still life. The subject of the figure seems, for me, to have more depth. Also, more that can go astray. There are more emotions tied to figurative work. As a painter painting the figure is more demanding emotionally especially on one's self-esteem. I can paint a shoe and say damn I'm good. It looks like a shoe, it looks like a good painting. When painting the figure I wonder, did I capture part of that persons essence? Will it be recognizable or symbolic of that person when others who know that person see it? Also a person has more features and subtleties visually than a shoe. There are layers of flesh and so many colors and subtle differences in changes in reflected light that it blows my mind and turns me into a crazy artist pulling at my hair wondering if I should get my eyes checked.
There will never be a portrait that I complete that will be perfect, there is no way that is possible of happening because the human figure is too dynamic. People are too complicated to capture in a single image. This doesn't stop me, it actually fuels me to continue on. My goal is to just capture a small glimpse into that particular person that I am painting. What at that specific moment has caught my eye about them? That one simple moment(s) where they are just being.
Doing a self portrait is easier for me. I don't have to worry about what the subject will think about the work or what their family will think about it. I believe I have done well over a hundred self portraits in painting and drawing. I still don't know what I look like, though I do recognize myself. I do have a strong sense of self, high self-esteem, and I love the way I look. It is my body and why not love it for the way that it is, especially for it's quirks. I am like no other. I like that. Therefore, when painting a self portrait I am free to experiment, with the process of painting. I can experiment with the subject and pose, the application of paint itself, the colors, layers, the entire process. I don't worry about looking beautiful or having perfect hair or skin. I look at what images of myself I am visually attracted to. In this painting it was about the light, how it highlights the hair and plays with cool and warm light in the face juxtaposing the cool greens in the background. The background in relation to the figure intrigues me; how the foliage seems to radiate from or to the figure. The lines of the hair flow around the face and yet the lines of the flowers direct the eye back to the face.
This is what I as the painter/artist thinks about. What really matters is if it is hung on the wall will anyone stop to look at it? If they do, and they don't need to know why, then the painting is a success. I can't wait to put it to the test. Did you stop to look at it?