Self-portrait practice


I like the colors and the light touch, but it doesn’t look anything like me. I know we always conclude that I should try working from a photo, but I really hate that. All the spontaneity is gone.



On a more positive note, last night I finished Lisa Stowe‘s book, The Memory Keeper, and loved it. I’m still thinking about it. Really well done, Lisa! 🙂


18 responses to “Self-portrait practice

  1. Wow, didn’t see the ending of this post coming. Thank you for the kind words. The sequel is off to the editors, still with no title! One of the things I like about your artwork is that you post what you don’t like as well as what you do. I am not a painter and tend to like everything you post, so it interests me to see why some things resonate with you and others fail. You may not see yourself in this painting but I like the expression you captured. And I like the colors. Makes me think of spring and summer. And Hawaii!

    • Lisa! Oh hooray, I am so so excited to hear you’ve written a sequel! I was going to ask you about that. 🙂 Titles are difficult.

      Whenever I hit “publish” on something I don’t like, I always cringe for a bit, but I’m always glad afterward that I shared. For one, I’m too self-critical, and all of you are great at reminding me of good points in the work that I overlooked (or didn’t fully appreciate). And for another, as you know with writing, it’s just awesome to get more pairs of eyes looking over what I’ve done — you help me see it in another way besides just “augh this sucks.” 🙂 So I thank you for that!

  2. I agree with Lisa. What a lovely painting and never thought of doing live yourself before. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hey Robin, thanks so much for coming by! I try to do self-portraits every couple of months or so, but I’ve gotten behind and this is my first one since… Edinburgh, I think, which was last July. They’re my best gauge for not just how my skills are improving, but how my perspective changes with time.

  3. Great work!
    1. You are right – It doesn’t look like you.
    2. You are wrong – it does look like you.
    And mainly, Lisa is right, it is more interesting to publish what you don’t like, so you can understand why you don’t, and often see the process of your dislike turning over to liking it.
    About the portrait itself, (wait, I am putting on my teacher hat 😉 I like it because:
    – The warm vs cold colors.
    – The shades of skin
    – The nose not being well-defined (by a line) but defined by the shades.
    I can challenge you to the following:
    – The glasses: when I see your mirror photo, I can see you have glasses, but I see no continuous black frame, sometimes the frame is lighter, sometimes darker, most of the time it is invisible, perhaps you don’t like it because you make the viewer (and yourself as a viewer) work less?
    – Is there a need to fill the whole page?

    And for really using your dislike:
    Can you not like it enough to ‘destroy it’? here are some ideas.
    take pastels, turn it upside down, and draw something else over it (a horizontal outside scene?),
    Tear it to 10-20 pieces and reglue them so they work better.
    What I won’t suggest (from personal experience) is ‘fixing it’. but I guess you know that…

    • Ahhh, thanks a million for this fantastic feedback, Dov!! I’m glad you said what you did about the warm/cool colors. I didn’t notice that, but that is why I like the colors.

      You are right about the glasses, and the same goes for the eyes too, actually. I always tell myself not to make them so continuous-line-y, but then when I get to that point in the portrait, I get impatient and just draw them out. ;b I don’t know why, but I always do. Next time I won’t.

      As for filling the whole page, I did that because habitually I don’t, and I wanted to try it. I also worked on a much bigger paper than usual, and I found that very freeing. 😀 Actually I’m glad I did use the whole page because if I do end up messing around with it some more, I can start from the bottom and do something there.

      Gah, I don’t know if I dislike it enough to destroy it, but I could certainly try to do something else with it. Not fix it. Not sure what yet. I’ll give it some time.

      I’m immensely cheered by your thoughts. Thank you for the perspective. 🙂

  4. I propped myself in front of a mirror and did a self portrait a few years ago. Like you, I didn’t think it was a great likeness but it had some merits as a painting. Fast forward to a few months ago: I gave away all my paintings before we set off on our trip. Just discovered the person who took the painting was a former co-worker who hung the painting over my old desk at work. It’s as if I’m still there. Too funny! May your painting have an interesting life, too!

    • I love that!!!!!! Thanks for sharing that story!

      Something I’ve done with other practice paintings is frame them in odd ways. I framed one self-portrait with some pieces of fabric alongside, and that made for an interesting composition. I framed another sheet of little sketches, and they looked really cool hung up as “art” and not just doodles. It’s fun to reinvent. 🙂

  5. Awesome! This is really, really good! Hope you’re enjoying Hawaii–it’s absolutely freezing in the Northeast, so all I can do is live vicariously through people someplace warm and tropical 🙂

    • Oh thank you, Jason!! Technically I think it’s much better than my previous attempts, even if it doesn’t look like me. It’s less motionless on the page, maybe because I painted it outside, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. 🙂

      I am enjoying Hawaii and hope you’re doing okay with all the blizzarding I’ve been hearing about! As for warm and tropical, well, we’re at 2600′ so this morning I went out to write in my journal and actually had to put on merino long underwear and a scarf — it was that windy. ;b But the sun is shining, true! And the birds are still singing! 😉

  6. Everyone’s responses to your painting are so fascinating! I agree that it does and doesn’t look like you, and I love it! I’m so clueless when it comes to watercolors, and I’m always baffled at how anyone can translate that medium into realistic-looking shadows and contours–beautiful job!

    • Thank you, Mo!! I have to say the painting is quite growing on me — and I’m pleased to think I’ve gotten a little better with the watercolors, I mean treating them as more of their own medium rather than just a way to draw with color. 🙂

  7. I love this … and agree that it does and doesn’t look like you. I’m impressed with you working without a photo, but totally understand your sense of losing the spontaneity.

    Sorry to have been out of touch for so long, and happy to be catching up today!

    • Thanks, Stacie! I keep saying I want to try some kind of self-portrait that’s not so tied to likeness, but captures more of the “feel” of being myself. I’ve thought about dancing or standing while painting. But maybe this one does get a bit of that sense of self without looking perfectly just like me.

      Don’t even mention having been out of touch; I’ve been shamefully behind on everyone’s blog, including mine! I’m happy to see you posting on yours though. 🙂

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