Self-portrait project (#orangeartgroup)

During this time of social distancing and therefore introspection I thought it would be useful to work on self-portraits.

Your eyes are free, they can touch whatever they want to. Open or closed (as in dreaming) they allow us to touch without our hands. Our ears, noses and eyes now allow our hearts to embrace our environment and try and make sense of it.

Making sense of the external and internal world is often done by making images whether they are visual or auditory. Below are a few suggestions, tips and clues for making sense of our “new coved-19 reality” during April 2020 and beyond; a self-portrait project.

I looked at a selection of self-portraits online; Rembrandt, Frank Auerbach, Gerald Sekoto, Richard Diebenkorn, Mary Cassatt, Joan Mitchell, Helen Sibidi, for a start.

Most self-portraits look at us, the viewer. We are included, our eyes interacting. The portraits are like autobiographies because they are self-representations of what we see in the mirror and what we want to say about ourselves.

What do you want to say about yourself and why, then how to proceed? This is not necessarily the order that these questions will be answered. Often the why and the what come after the how.

I am interested in you and how your journey through making a self-portrait. Others are too.  We are all interested in ourselves and in each other, willy-nilly.  Working from the human form really is the very best way to engage your skills and ideas visually. The self-portraits that I have of my mother, mother and father together, uncle and others are very dear to me, more so than photographs.

Perhaps the best place to start is with a drawing; simple materials, charcoal, an eraser, A4 pencil, pen and ink, a piece of paper; sitting or standing with a mirror nearby and just play. Try life-size as this helps to focus and ask whoever passes to comment. (It is really difficult to be objective when making a self-portrait.)  Just keep going using all the aesthetic tools we have explored; line, tone, format, proportion, verticals and horizontals etc.) Start again, erase, paint over, tear it up and collage the portrait, change medium or scale. Explore and experiment until you find an image that says, AH HA.

Please take a cell phone picture as you go and add to the #orangeartgroup. Comments can be made on the Monday morning extra group.

NB (The Monday group is for art-related news and events. This group and the Monday morning extra what’s ap group can’t be a platform for other subjects.)

Please let me know if you want to be added to these groups.

To continue;

You may become illustrative and create a cartoon series of a memory? Using your initial portrait will assist in this journey.

You may take this further as an in-depth oil painting or a quick watercolour or transfer a line drawing into a lino cut.

With Helen Sibidi’ s painting, I think she uses her narratives to describe herself. The “self-portraits” become symbolic and the person described in the painting is supported by the narrative of fish, sea, landscape etc. Maybe she is projecting into who she has seen herself to be in dreams or simple someone she would like to be. I think many superheroes started as self-portraits for instance. (William Blake?) Then there is the idea that all portraits are self-portraits.

In your work think about what you want to say about yourself, or just get going and let the image give you ideas, lead you on. You may be central to the format and alone, ( the intention then is to make a painting of yourself):  you may include one other person or a younger image of yourself from photographs or memory: You may research family groups and take a linage of grandparents who you relate to and extend your self-portrait into your narrative of a family group. Include words if they add to the image.

This leads to memory, reflection and dreams. The first drawings of yourself in the mirror can be adapted to work into all these worlds. 

Materials; drawing materials, chalks, paints, paper, canvas, clay, a mirror.

A photographs/s.

Collage (this can lead to journaling)

Whatever you work with, be true to your medium.  

If you are painting from a photograph remember you are using paint and allow the image to be made by you and the paint. If you are using photographs and translate them into multiple prints, use a good printer so that you work with all the options on the printer. Collage; include a piece of an old dress, a photo of a garden or tree… these all talk about you. (When I did this, I made a life-size rag doll of myself. The head was a letterbox where I posted notes, mostly secrets to myself.)

 Clay, carving, tapestry, sewing, knitting, where will you go with this project?

A few observed, paintings or drawings is a good starting point.

I look forward to seeing images on #orangeartgroup and reading comments on Monday morning extra.

Best wishes from Jill