My One and Only Self-Portrait ~ Bill

Self-portraiture is a great way to hone your portrait skills because you always have someone to pose for you.  All you need is a mirror.  In college, I had an art teacher who told his students to bring in a variety of pictures to class, including pictures of us.  We didn’t know what was coming.  We had just completed painting miniatures and in order for us to get a feel for working in a variety of sizes, our next project was going to be a mural size dot drawing!  A six by eight foot dot drawing using a black magic marker!

Our teacher picked each students' photo for them, knowing what composition would blow-up well.  For one female student he picked a face of a tiger.  I could definitely see that looking really cool enlarged.  When it came to me he happened to pick out a picture of me wearing a cowboy hat that my girlfriend Jen had taken.  Oh no, I thought to myself.  I was going to spend the rest of the semester working on a mural size portrait of myself!  For a relatively shy person I thought how bad this would look to everyone around me.  The EGO! 

He had us use a projector to blow-up the picture on a huge sheet of white paper.  We drew a very fine pencil outline and from there it was one dot here and one dot there.  Hours upon hours of pointillism to create in the end what became a very realistic huge portrait of ME!

It was one of the most memorable albeit embarrassing art challenges I experienced in college.  It turned out to be one of my best works.  But what was I going to do with a mural size drawing of myself? 

For years, Bill was rolled up in a long cardboard box and traveled with us wherever we moved.  For a number of years, my brother displayed him in a large vaulted room in his home in Colorado.  I was flattered that he loved his brother so much that he could live with a bigger than life size version of me day in and day out. 

When he moved he no longer had room for Bill’s hugeness. I think the reality was that maybe my brother’s girlfriends found it odd.  :-)  Bill was now back in the box. 

Finally, I realized Bill had to go.  I would never hang him.  He couldn’t ever be seen again.  Big Bill ended up in many tiny pieces!  All that work was now in the trash.

I do admire self-portraits by others though.  Van Gogh instantly comes to mind.  He painted dozens of them.  I recently admired a self-portrait done by a friend and modern master Ryan Bonger. It is a worthy exercise for artists and many great self-portraits hang in the most prominent and important museums.    

Just not mine!