Friday, January 20, 2012

Analyzing the Self Portrait: (commonly asked questions/comments)

Many of my friends can't help but notice the hundreds of self portraits that I have done throughout the years.  Anyone who sees my artwork hanging in a show space will surely notice that there are almost always a few self portraits tucked in the peripheries of the environment.  Many people find the portraits to be much more appealing or interesting than my studio landscapes.  They spend as much time examining a 20 min self portrait as they do an oil painting that I pined over, lost sleep over even.  The self portraits mean little to me by comparison, yet even I can't help but include a selection of these silly little narcissistic meanderings.  It is a Curious thing.  But not an isolated incident.

20 min pose 2012

Why do self portraits.  For starters, an artist always has his model with him at all times. Whenever the itch for creative release arises, you can always draw yourself.  Drawing or painting yourself cuts out the middle man or the model.  Beginner art students tend to have more success breaking through generic image modeling tendencies when forced to render their own likeness, therefor making self portraiture an ideal training and skill building exercise.  I've always found self portraits to be painfully honest renderings of ones self (think of Frida Kahlo's iconic unibrow) to the point of being blatantly unflattering.  This inherent quality of a self portrait can make them very intimate portraits of the artists psyche (insecurities, fears, a laundry list of unsavory things) and therefor more than just paintings.   

There are other reasons of course.  Before photography was mainstream throughout the world, a self portrait was a great way to advertise yourself.  Artists self portraits seem to be akin with the artists personality.  Fun loving and jovial artists usually have a more playful and personable portraits whereas the very intellectual and "serious" artists always seem to have a pensive, stoic gaze cemented in the importance of the artistic process.  All of these characteristics give self portraiture an almost biographic quality. 
Frida Kahlo

Artists throughout time have used the self portrait as a vehicle for self expression that can not be achieved through third party observance.  Sometimes the artist, though always a character in the show. wants to step out from the shadows and say a few lines.

I personally have always used the self portrait as a way of centering myself.  observing myself through an intimate lense.  There is something metaphysical happening in the space between the artist and the mirror.  I feel as if through intense focus and complete submersion into ones work can cause a kind of beautiful absence of anything physical.  It is a inadvertant meditation.  For example, when i am in the studio, my attention is often spliced in several directions.  The fact that my paintings are developed through specific intentions and processes limits the amount of time i can get lost in them without taking a step of the process way too far, limits the depth ar which my subconcious can submerge.  Self portraits are different for me.  I can sit there and draw myself without conviction, intentions or expectations.  It is pure creation.  In between my eyeballs and the mirror, I am convinced the air is having a cosmic orgasm.  Electrons bouncing into each other in a courting dance as old as the universe.  Sorry to get all Tom Robbins on you, but it really feels peaceful.  

One thing that many people ask me is "Why don't you draw the eyeballs in most self P's?"  That I will explain another time.  It isn't exactly a secret, but I have trouble articulating it.  I am in the process of learning how to talk about it without sounding like a novice existentialist.  Soon though.

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