Change and Grow – Self-Portrait

My schedule was utterly slammed this week.  Every space on the wall calendar was crammed with appointments and commitments and things that needed to be done.  I thought there was not the remotest chance I was going to get to even view this week’s Life Book lessons let alone sit down and do something creative.  However, two things happened this week that utterly jiggered my schedule and caused a great deal of hassle – one of my kids was off school sick for two days and then we had a snow day – but which actually meant I had more time stuck at home.  More time at home meant I could actually get stuck into the lesson and art time was probably just what I needed to take the edge off the stress of a totally bonkers week.

The lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte.  Tam always provides wonderfully in-depth videos for her lessons but there was no way I was going to find time to both view the videos and then still have time to create.  I, therefore, read the accompanying PDF, modified the lesson by eliminating certain stages, and got stuck in.  The crux of the lesson was a self-portrait scaffolded on an image transfer.  I have never had much success with image transfers but I thought that was precisely why I should have another crack at it.  The outcome was not ideal – I think I spread the gel medium too thinly in places – but is definitely the best I have produced so far so represents progress.

6a Self-Portrait - Transfer

I then proceeded to paint on top of the image transfer and this was where I diverged from the lesson.  I did not have time for layer upon layer of media so I limited myself to acrylic paint, Neocolor II crayons, and Inktense pencils and blocked in areas of colour and built up the detail of my face.

6b Self-Portrait - Middle

The idea of the painting was to include personal, symbolic elements and text alongside the self-portrait.  It is not really my thing to be that personal and emotional with my art work.  Art is definitely therapeutic to me but only in terms of the act of creating.  I don’t need it to be a form of processing and expressing my thoughts and feelings and I am also too intensely private.  I decided, however, that the self-portrait did need some finishing touches so I added some collage elements in the form of butterflies and leaves formed from text pages.  All of those things could be interpreted as things that are important to me as a person – words and learning, growth, and change.

6c Self-Portrait - Grow & Change

Mixed Media Self-Portrait

This week’s Life Book lesson taught me that I need to be more patient and it reinforced that my creative nemesis is time.

The tutor for this week was Jeanne Oliver and the idea was to create a mixed media piece using an image of ourselves as the key piece of scaffolding for the art work that would emerge.  Her video tutorial was in-depth, detailed and crammed full of new techniques and approaches.  My first challenge, however, was just watching the videos: I have had such little free time this week that I had to watch the videos in bursts of five or ten minutes over the course of a few days.  It is difficult to feel immersed in inspiration and ideas when all the dipping in and out undermines the cohesion and flow of what the artist is demonstrating.  It was a definite test of my patience.

Another challenge I faced was that I did not have the materials required for some of the techniques, including the key technique of image transfer that Oliver demonstrated a few times in the course of the tutorial.  I, therefore, had to improvise with what I had in order to end up with the same sort of result.  Having figured out how I was going to approach the piece and even having an image of it in my mind’s eye, the snag of lack of time came to the fore again.  I had to mentally break down the piece I wanted to create into very many bite size stages.  I had five minutes to work on it here, ten minutes to work on it there, but I could not risk abandoning a stage part way through otherwise I would be risking the whole thing becoming disjointed.

Something I found interesting while creating this piece was that I realised – by virtue of having to improvise a bit – that I was pulling on learning from several Life Book lessons, not just Jeanne Oliver’s: the blending of collage and paint to create a figure was something I did for Jane Davenport’s lesson; I had learned some skills involved in painting portraits from the lesson with Jenny Wentworth; the use of metallics was something I learned from Mati Rose McDonough’s lesson and which I then incorporated into another painting I did; and there have been several lessons involving building up layers of collage and pigment that I borrowed from for this piece.  The process made me realise not only how much I am learning but how much I am absorbing.

As I built up the background and figure’s body using collaged papers, I contemplated not making it a self-portrait at all.  I would much rather paint someone either more aesthetically pleasing than myself or with a more characterful face than myself.  However, the whole idea of the lesson was to create a piece that was a reflection of self.  I, therefore, resolved to stick with the plan and paint my own face.  Ugh.

Week 22 - Reflections -1

Week 22 - Reflections -3

The resulting face looks like me and yet does not look like me.  I have a habit of making eyes too big – largely because of my usual drawing style – so in my attempts to ensure they did not end up too starey they have actually ended up looking like I am in some sort of stupor.  My eyes and eyebrows are one of my dominant features so the eyes not being large enough means the face does not really look like me.  The proportions of the forehead are correct (I have a five-head) but I painted my chin a bit too low in relation to my mouth (and my lips really are that big and pouty).  So if you squint your eyes just so the face looks like me.  Something I deliberately changed was the hair.  I have terrible hair.  It would not make for an interesting painting.  Since my collage and composition had taken me into a sort of Klimt or Mucha vibe, I felt like the figure needed full, thick hair – something I have never had.  The hair is actually collaged from a book.

Except for the face (ugh!) I am really pleased with how this piece turned out.  I like the palette of neutrals with the disc of gold behind the head and the metallic dots and gold splatter adding interest.  I like that the body is collaged out of an image of scrabble pieces since it relates to my love of words, literacy and literature.  I like the little bits of collage around the golden disc.  I can see me using the techniques I used in creating this piece again – just not with my mug – and at some point I would like to try the image transfer technique Oliver highlighted in her lesson too.