Drawing From Life: A Focus on the Self

Blue Self-Portrait 12x9 inch charcoal and acrylic on bristol 2019

I’ve completed my yearlong research to make portraits from life. This project stemmed from my experience painting 25 family portraits from photos for the Exhibition and Collaborative Fellowship at Community Arts Center last Summer 2018. I saw the clear advantages of working from photos, and I still love it. But I had a vague sense of all the advantages of portraiture based solely on observation from life. And so, seventeen self-portraits and one year later, I’m happy to say that I am more confident in its benefits and how direct observation serves the final product

20 minute Portrait 10x8 inch acrylic on bristol 2019

Earphone 9x9inch acrylic on bristol 2019

Pink self-portrait 16x12inch acrylic on bristol 2018

One beneficial aspect of working from life is that it is constantly changing. Even though I’ve lived with the same face all my life, the slightest shift in light changes the highlights and shadows of my face. For instance, the intensity of the light shining directly down from above creates shadows around the eye sockets, nose, mouth and perimeter, as can be seen in the Pink Self-Portrait. 

self-portrait 2. 18x12inch charcoal on strathmore 2018

Victorian Self portrait 18x12inch charcoal on strathmore 2018

Drawing Self-portrait 8x6inch pen on paper 2019

self-portrait pencil 20x16inch pencil on strathmore 2019

Self-portrait sketch 8x6inch pencil on paper 2019

Relying on natural light made me push through a portrait quickly. The sun moves constantly, even with my north facing studio windows. My posture falls the longer I sit. So I intentionally chose a limited palette with simple light and dark hues that for the most part work well when all mixed together. The quick decisions helped me to find the expression naturally, without thinking too much about what I saw.

Hand to Head 20x16inch chacoal on strathmore 2019

Montreal room 6x6inch acrylic on board 2019

Smirk 12x9inch acrylic on bristol 2018

First 16x12inch oil on arches 2018

foggy 5x5inch acrylic on board 2018

Blinded by the back light 10x8inch acrylic on bristol 2019

So- yay! I’ve completed my goal for this year. I’ve used myself as a reference to see what boundaries I could find, which I did, and hopefully I can push through them also in the future.But in the meantime I’ll continue to paint from life, both myself and, soon, others as well.

With my man (detail) 12x16inch oil on arches 2019

Using Format