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.
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.
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.
(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
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.
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.
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.
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.