2017010-Self-Portrait_#6, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 15x11"

Winter Self-Portrait #6 (but really 7), oil on Arches Oil Paper, 15×11″

Painting quick self-portraits seemed like a good way to work through my feelings while supporting my elderly mother in hospice, especially with my limited studio time and energy. The most recent, #6 above, is my favorite so far because I focused on finding light, beauty and strength rather than darkness (and because I omitted my frown lines). I used a limited palette of titanium white, yellow ochre, venetian red, cobalt blue and a little Gamblin Asphaltum and a cool white light bulb.

Studio set-up with mirror

Studio set-up with mirror

Here’s my funky set up with the big mirror  propped up on a dresser drawer. In all six of these self-portraits (above and below) I focused on capturing something of what I was feeling in a short session (3- to 4-hour studies) without worrying too much about getting a true likeness.

Self-portrait 2/3/17, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12x9"

Self-portrait #5B -Yellow, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12×9″

In #5 above I draped a yellow cloth over my hoodie and down vest (it was cold in the studio) and tried to keep shadow and light separate so that nothing in shadow was as light as anything in light. I had trouble keeping my head in the same position in the mirror and started too large for the paper. A lot of fear and sadness in this one. I used a warm bulb in my lamp.

Self-portrait #5A-Red,  oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12×9″

(update: Accidentally left out the one above when I wrote the post so had to number it with a letter prefix.) I was seeing red that day; mad but determined

Self-portrait 2/1/17, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12x9"

Self-portrait #4-Lavender,  oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12×9″

In #4 above I draped myself with a lavender cloth and looked for interesting colors reflected in my face. I look as weary, faded, and washed out as I felt. I used a cool daylight bulb in my lamp.

Self-portrait 1/27/17, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12x9"

Self-portrait #3-Green, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12×9″

In #3 above I draped myself with an acidic green cloth whose color represented to me the anger I was feeling that day. It also reflected the green onto my face, especially when I turned off most of the other studio lights so there was very strong contrast in the lighting. I’m looking pretty skeptical and like a scary clown in this one. I used a warm light bulb on this one and those below.

Self-portrait 1/25/17, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12x9"

Self-portrait #2, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12×9″

I was too tired and unfocused when I started #2 above, and when I realized the drawing was too big for the paper and that my head position had changed too much, I abandoned the painting early on.

Self-portrait 1/21/17, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12x9"

Self-portrait #1-Grey, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12×9″

I painted #1 above shortly after we moved my mother from her lifelong home in Southern California to a wonderful hospice here in the Bay Area where we could be near her. I look sad, scowling, belligerent and Dumbo-eared. But I was also happy to be back in the studio even if it meant I had to stare at myself for hours. I stopped at 3 hours when I ran out of time and energy.

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Category:
Faces, Oil Painting, Painting, People, Portrait, Self Portrait
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Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. Self portraits can be healing — give time for reflection and getting to know one’s self. Thanks for sharing yours.

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    • Thanks Joy. Same is true for portraits. I had an in-law I really despised many years ago. I decided to paint her portrait–make her an ugly mean witch–but as I painted her face, as my brushes caressed her image, I began to feel compassion for her and by the end her painting wasn’t of a mean witch but of a person for whom I could feel compassion.

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  2. The meaning of “self-reflection” certainly takes on a whole new meaning in terms of self-portraits. When one “self-reflects” in a journal, we are in a sense looking inward and are far removed from the physical world, including our own outer shell. Yet I find the practice very difficult, even intimidating and haven’t had the courage to “let loose” – I cowardly rely on the writings of deep thinkers and authors to understand my own thoughts…..I just hate what I myself write…..So, attempting a self-portrait is even further beyond my level of comfort or courage (and I’m not referring merely to painting techniques, but the fear of looking myself in the eye for an extended period of time.) Kudos to you for following through with your project in spite of external circumstances and having the courage to come back to the drawing board, so to speak, 5 more times and allowing art to be such a healing source of expression. This was such an inspiration and so was your touching response to Joy’s comment. I am deeply moved!

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  3. Thank you for sharing these beautiful self portrait studies. Sending prayers for you as you go thru this difficult time.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  4. Dear Jana, You are a beautiful person and I am so glad that you shared your troubles with us as painful as they are. I love your work and your courage to share each of your self portraits, what a stimulus for the many of us to do the same. I like the first one the best, too, bit the others are also of great value. So many words to say thank you so much, and prayers for your Mom and all of you going up! God bless, C-Marie

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  5. Oh dear, I meant the number sux is my favorite. God bless, C-Marie

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  6. Thank you for sharing these, Jana. I think sp’s are very important.

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  7. This was a really good exercise! I like the one that you chose as your favorite. The whole series reflects your mood at what must be a very difficult time for you and your mother. I sympathasize.

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  8. Oh Jana such a sad time but a great record of emotions.

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  9. Just one more….the eyes in each of your portraits are beautiful!!! God bless, C-Marie

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  10. Interesting post, Jana! I’m glad I stumbled into your blog this morning! I will come back and visit some more when I have some time 🙂

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