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.

La Belle France

La Belle France (watercolour and acrylic ink 28 x 38cm)
La Belle France (watercolour and acrylic ink 28 x 38cm)

Having seen my Africa paintings, friends Hayley and Simon asked me to paint La Belle France for Hayley’s parents who now live in the idyllic French countryside.

This is France shining brightly with all her life-giving rivers, centres of energy where the population is greatest, and luminous tentacles of influence spreading outwards from her borders.

The precursors to La Belle France are:

African Energy

African Rhythm


Two of these can be seen on the Paintings in the Wild page. Both of them stayed close to home having ended up in private collections within 20km from where they were created.


Watercolour landscape: Verdant Peaks

Watercolour Landscape: Verdant Peak (watercolour 15 x 10 cm)
Verdant Peak (watercolour 15 x 10 cm)

This morning a photographer was standing in my studio taking photographs while I painted the first brushstrokes of a watercolour landscape for Running With Brushes.

I’m not accustomed to painting while someone watches. It’s possibly one of the things that puts me off plein air painting (just one, mind you. There are more). But this morning we needed some photographs for an article about Running With Brushes for the Cambridge News. So I laid down a quick wash using a brighter blue than I normally would for a sky, and some green gold. I chose those colours because they would have impact and visibility for camera.

This evening I went back and completed the landscape which, led by the colours I started with, turned into a lush rainforest filled gorge at the foot of a mountain range.  Now I’m really just itching to see the article when it comes off the presses.

Other watercolour landscape paintings

Deep Roots – and abstract landscape

Flow – acryllic landscape

Ravine – small abstract watercolour landscape