Image description: Sketch outline in muted colours (pale brown, mahogany, pink, ochre) of head, three-quarter profile, of a short-haired white woman
Until now I’d never tried to draw a human portrait of any kind, but about 10 years ago I took a selfie, with an old iPhone 4 in low light, that bleached out much of my skin and left the rest in oddly pink/brown tones. I’ve always liked it. (For two reasons. One, pure vanity! The bleaching makes me look much younger than I really did. And two, I was fascinated by the fact that although what was left because of the over-exposure were just a few dabs and streaks of colour, it still suggested a whole face. So today when I got tired of working on the Dramatis Personae for MENEWOOD, and then when I switched to working on maps got tired of that, I thought, Well, let’s see what happens if I noodle around with a few dabs of pink and brown…
Perhaps this happens to a lot of people, but when I first pick up something—an instrument or paintbrush or fencing foil, or boxing or aikido or gymnastics—I often do surprisingly well. It’s a powerful kind of Beginner’s Luck, a First-timer’s Fluke. And it really is a fluke: it can take me a hundred more attempts to get back to the unselfconscious ease and fluency of that first time—if I bother to stick with it. It makes me wonder just how instinctively amazing we could all be at many things if we just got out of our own way…
Working on this portrait was an extremely strange experience. If I’d thought about it at all beforehand I might have guessed it would feel like the visual-art equivalent of writing a memoir. It wasn’t like that at all. It felt…oddly embarrassing, even furtive, like something to be done in the dark.
For any artists reading this—amateur or professional—is that your experience of self-portraits? Or is this more of a non-artist’s thing? Or just a beginner’s thing?
One thought on “Self-portrait”
I wanted to be an artist when I was a little girl. I realized I completely lacked a sense of proportion. I rebounded to words and writing. I’d always been obsessively in love with stories so it works. :) In truth, I’ve seldom encountered anyone as talented as you. I wish I had. I might have been inspired to push myself to exercise my own talents to the fullest by the example. Your drawing is beautiful, but it get the impression you’ve always been a beautiful woman. You’ve given yourself a transient, eternal quality, as if you’re always changing yet staying the same. The lines and color enhance this quality.
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