It cracks me up how selfies end up making noses even more prominent than in real life, including the one above of me. I’m still finding my way with gouache but enjoying the immediacy of it and the easy clean up. It doesn’t allow for reworking forever the way oil painting does, which is helping me to focus more on getting it as close to right as I can with each brush stroke and color mixture.
Below is a gouache sketch from a photo in the Sktchy app of Farah W.’s mother.
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.
I might look grumpy or serious from concentrating, a little cross-eyed (eyes drawn too close together), big-nosed and scrawny, but I’m really happy with this painting because it was fun to do! The hardest part was lighting my face without blinding myself with the glare.
Below you can see the setup I used in the studio, with the giant mirror I got for $10 (!) at Home Depot; it was half priced and had a few scratches so they took off another $5. I had a hard time supporting the mirror so that it was tall enough to see myself. Finally I found a solution: propped it up on an open drawer, held in place with two bungee cords wrapped around the studio chest of drawers.
Inspired by Myriam Yee (be sure to check out her amazing series of Zorn palette self-portraits here), I used the “Zorn” limited palette of Ivory Black, Cadmium Red Medium, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White. Myriam uses Williamsburg Cold Black instead of Ivory Black, which has some Ultramarine Blue mixed in and provides a wider range of colors. I bought a tube and am experimenting with it now.
I painted on Dura-Lar Matte Film again but this time (see previous post) I did the drawing on one sheet and then imposed a second sheet over it to paint on. This way, if I wanted to try a second painting of the same drawing or just want to save the drawing I still have it.
I had a migraine on May 11 and wore my jaunty blue migraine ice pack/wrap over a green scarf until the meds kicked in. If I wear the ice pack without a scarf under it, the pain of my head freezing only makes the migraine feel better by comparison. The weight of the pack made my ears stick out which made it fun to draw them.
I should have left the pencil drawing unpainted. I think the color took away from the dimensionality I’d gotten with just pencil and white paper and now the shading looks like I’m growing a beard.
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):
A few days later I tried again:
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.