Self Portrait

2013, charcoal, 5x8”, 45 minutes

This is my first self portrait in five years, and my first time picking up a pencil since 2010. Based on your own aptitude at sketching, this may either sound like an excuse or bragging, so let’s interpret it as both. I’m surprised that I could do even this after such an extensive hiatus, but, ugh, there are so many areas where I need to be more thoughtful, there’s so much more work to be done.

I took a lot of drawing and painting classes in high school and had time to do an art minor in college (though I focused on sculpture), so for about ten years I did a lot of self portraits as exercises and assignments. Many of them had gimmicky constraints. But with half a dozen self portraits every year, you memorize the proportions of your face and you end up with this Official Version that isn’t truly representative. This is a luxury. You trust that you look the same as you have always looked and you just know where your features sit and the shape of the shadows cast by them. In the past five years, all the horrible fucking shit that my mother, an esthetician, had warned me would happen to my face and body have started happening. Now I don’t know how I look anymore, and I don’t trust that what I’m seeing in the mirror is the most current version. It was like I was sketching a stranger, and in a way I was kind of investigating what the hell time has done to me over the last five years without the melodrama of like unwrapping a big-ass bandage off your face.

I’ve told myself so many times before that I was going to commit to drawing and painting more, to attend figure drawing sessions, to carry a sketchpad, to buy an easel and a few tubes of paint and a couple of brushes, to observe more, but I’m not sure how this all fits back into my life. I am not an artist. Shortly before I moved to Portland I was working on a project where I shredded all my old sketchpads, turned them into pulp, and then made paper out of them and bound them into new sketchbooks. My mother kicked me out very early on in the paper-making process, and I was living on my dad’s sofa out of a bag and wasn’t able to work on it. Then The Great Move interrupted everything, so rather than carry all that paper across the country, I had everything shredded. I don’t regret having everything destroyed because even though it’s personal, it’s only paper.

A dozen self portraits throughout the ages!

1999, charcoal, 16x20”-ish
2000, charcoal, 9x12”
2001, charcoal, 9x12”
2001, charcoal and chalk pastel, 12x9”
2002, oil on acetate 5x8”
2003, oil pastel, 8x10”
2006, charcoal, 12x9”
2006, charcoal, > 24x36”
2006, oil on canvas, 24x36”
2006, oil on canvas, 24x36”
2007, oil pastel, 8x10”
2008, ballpoint pen, < 8x10”
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