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!