Friday, September 9, 2016

The Self Portrait

In the interest of learning more about tone and temperature on the human face, there is no better study than the live model.  Photographs just won't do.  But there is never anyone around who is willing to sit still for me for two hours while I try to decipher what is going on with the light bouncing off their skin.  Except for me.  I'm always available, and so I find myself doing self-portraits from time to time.  It's a way to practice the drawing - getting proportions right, quickly capturing the shape of the nose or the placement of the ear.  But it isn't as if I want a bunch of paintings of myself, so I don't set out to do a nice painting, and often I grab a sketchbook, painting with oil on paper.  It doesn't make for very nice blending, since the paper absorbs too quickly, the paints are too thinly applied to stand up: they get blotchy.  But that isn't the point, so it doesn't bother me too much.  What does bother me sometimes is that I'm not focused on flattering myself and I end up looking stressed or crazed, probably because of the intense focus on the act of painting.  (Or maybe it is more of a psychological study than I think.)  And then I end up with selfie after selfie, and I begin to worry about that, too.  Recently, a well-known painter whose blog I follow has been posting self-portrait after self-portrait, and as much as I understand the need to use oneself as an available subject, I can't help a part of me reacting with a "oh, get over yourself!" It seems a little self-obsessed.  It seems as if he finds himself so compelling that he believes others will, too.  Why can't I cut him the slack that I cut myself?  He's studying color and temperature and drawing.  

There have been some amazing self-portraits over the years.  Van Gogh did many that are well known.  Rembrandt was the master.  It never seemed to be about him, but about the painting instead.

And then there was Gauguin, with a work less well-known.

And then there is this one by Tissot.  It has long been one of my favorites.

A couple of nights ago we took the boat downtown for dinner, and on the return home the evening sky was remarkable, exploding with color, endlessly fascinating and changing, and I tried to capture of bit of the feeling in a 6x6 oil.  I'm not ordinarily interested in sunset paintings, but I might need to try this one on a larger scale with some blending to soften it like it was in reality.  The darks are easily laid in, full of mystery and very true to life.  But that yellow was very hard to nail down with paint.

And this was a little effort to try out a different palette of colors, Prussian blue and Naples yellow, with Alizarin Crimson.