First Draft Self Portrait: Getting Some Perspective

Self Portrait: Getting some perspective (watercolour (38 x 28 cm)
Getting Some Perspective (watercolour (38 x 28 cm)

It’s hard to know what to write about this self portrait – painting it felt strange, writing about it even more so. I’m not sure if other artists feel a little narcissistic painting themselves, but given how uncomfortable I am with photographs of myself, painting my own image was inevitably going to be excruciating.

I suspect that for any portrait artist, painting a self portrait is a bit of a right of passage – and yes, I know that painting the back of my head is a bit of a cop out. But what I liked about the reference photograph I used for this was the sense of height and perspective on the world. The photograph was taken on a brief break at the top of the mountain above Kalk Bay in Cape Town. It’s a 3 hour hike, at the top of which you can see both the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans you are so high up. I loved the feeling of being so high up looking across the suburbs below out to the ocean. And am I happy with the result? Partly and here’s my analysis:

Things that didn’t work in my first draft self portrait:

  1. I struggled to capture the sense of  activity in the distance below. I was focusing so much on the figure, the focus of the painting, that I let the ground below become muddy.
  2. The rocks behind me aren’t well defined. Once the muddiness appeared on the right hand side of the painting I decided not to put any more time into it and didn’t go back to correct the rocks

Reasons I am pleased with my first draft self portrait:

  1. This is my first detailed figure painting – and for a first I’m reasonably happy with the result
  2. The sense of height and perspective work for me in this painting.

Now the question I ask myself is whether I should redo this painting to get it completely right. I suspect I will have to do so at some point – just because I really want to master the pieces I don’t think worked well.

12 thoughts on “First Draft Self Portrait: Getting Some Perspective

  1. This completely blows me away. I didn’t notice the scene until you pointed out the rocks because your hair is so beautifully done and as Maudei says, there has a lovely fresh feeling to the painting.

    I would like to steal the concept because I’ve been working my way up to a series of self portraits from birth to now, which I’m resisting like crazy. I’ve been told that this is very cathartic. I love the idea of looking over the ocean and have just the photo of a place I used to live to pop in the background. Painting the back of the head is a good start for introspection.

    1. I’m not sure I would have been confident enough to do a front view yet. The hair was enough of a challenge in itself 🙂

      You’re most welcome to use the concept and I hope to see the results on a blog some time in the future.

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