Self Portrait, Oil on panel, 6x6"

Self Portrait, Oil on panel, 6×6″

I wasn’t satisfied with the two ink and watercolor end-of-journal self-portraits (below) that completed the 8×10″ Moleskine I was working in back in June. Rose Frantzen had told me during my workshop with her that I had wonderful skin to paint and should be doing lots of self-portraits from life in oil. So I decided to give it a try.

I only had couple of hours left in the day for painting so chose a small 6×6″ panel that already had a dark background from wiping off a previous failed painting. I turned off most of the lights in the studio except for one pointing at my face from the left and one overhead light behind me. I clamped a mirror to the easel and started painting. What a surprise: after a couple of hours I’d made my most favorite self-portrait ever.

I know it’s not perfect but I don’t think it calls for perfecting; it’s just a moment in time and a record of a very enjoyable but short painting session.

Below are the two in my sketchbook. I was in a really grumpy mood and struggling with the drawing on the first one and it shows (below):

Grumpy Strained Self-Portrait, ink & watercolor, 10x8"

Grumpy Strained Self-Portrait, ink & watercolor, 10×8″

A few days later I tried again:

Self-Portrait with Birthday Bouquet

Self-Portrait with Birthday Bouquet, ink & watercolor, 10×8″

I was in a much better mood. I put my birthday bouquet on the table between me and the mirror and started drawing. It was confusing trying to combine what was real and what was mirror image. It’s a dorky drawing of me but I like the flowers.

Isn’t it amazing how emotions and mood show in a drawing or painting? It’s like there are two different people in these two sketches: mean, tense, bossy-lady and sweet, flowery, dorky girl.

Faces, Ink and watercolor wash, Oil Painting, Painting, People, Self Portrait, Sketchbook Pages
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Join the conversation! 10 Comments

  1. The oil portrait is lovely and very soulful. You have captured such a compelling emotion. The color and light are perfect. It’s more of a portrait of a universal theme, there’s worry and acceptance in the expression. I love your sketchbook ones, too. The grumpy one is wonderful, it reminds me of a teacher I once had, or myself when I’m grumpy. All of these express a lot and show your versatility. Beauty has many different faces.


    • Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful and kind comment. I love it when someone really gets what I’m after. Made my day! Jana


  2. Love the sketch one with flowers.


    • Thanks Erin. Me too, especially since I’d had trouble painting the flowers before but they just kind of popped out of my brush on this try. Maybe because I wasn’t even worried about the flowers, just the portrait. Jana


  3. Jana this portrait is wonderful, I really love this one. I’ve never wanted to do a self portrait but you make me want to. You’ve done a beautiful job. I’m so glad you took Rose’s suggestion and painted your portrait in oil. I can’t believe its only 6″ x 6″. Beautiful, beautiful … beautiful. When and if you decide to paint another will you share some step-by-step shots? I love this Jana…. you did a great job.

    Blessings … Nancy


    • Thanks Nancy, Sure, I’ll try to share some step by step next time. It’s hard to remember to take photos as I work–when I get into the zone as I was in this one I forget everything else. Jana


  4. Wonderful portrait Jana! I like the sketches, but your portrait is at once universal and specifically you.


    • Thanks Sonia. I’m glad you can see me in it. I dont’ worry as much about capturing a likeness as I do an essence. Jana

      Sketchblog: Website: UrbanSketchers-BayArea,


  5. Beautiful job on the oil portrait, it’s just wonderful!
    We’ll be seeing more of these, yes?


    • Thanks Nel! And yes, I will do more….eventually. I hope you’re well and enjoying life and painting! Jana

      Sketchblog: Website: UrbanSketchers-BayArea,


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