Friday, March 9, 2007

Do a Self Portrait!

Mary Cassatt
c. 1880
Watercolor on ivory paper
33 x 24 cm

To continue with a look at how the masters handled different subjects and techniques, and what we can learn from them to apply to our own art, I thought I'd tackle the subject of Self Portraits today.

Doing a self portrait is a bit daunting, if you've never done one, but give it a try in your sketchbook today, and see what happens!

You can use a mirror, or even work from a photograph of yourself, if you wish, but I would encourage you to try the mirror method if you haven't done it before.

Set yourself up to draw or paint in front of a mirror. If possible don't choose a straight-on pose. Be careful to avoid a "deer in the headlights" look with your eyes, since you will have to stare at your image, and you don't want "the stare" to come out in your portrait (unless it is intentional!)
Paul Gauguin
Self Portrait-Les Misérables
45 × 55 cm

I have chosen some different self portraits that show a more bold approach to self-portraiture by Mary Cassatt, Paul Gauguin and a German artist named George Hendrik Breitner. You can work more quickly if you don't labor over every detail, so try to be a little bolder in your approach, to help with the time that you spend on this. Try to capture a likeness, but don't worry if you don't. Perhaps you are saying more about yourself than you realize in doing this exercise and are capturing a mood or attitude instead. That works too!George Hendrik Breitner
Self Portrait with Pince Nez
Unknown date

At the bottom I have uploaded one of my own self portraits. It isn't my very best effort- I sort of have that "deer in the headlights look," but it was done fairly quickly with acrylics on watercolor paper.

Give self portraiture a try. You'll be surprised at how fun it is!

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