I have often wondered why artists paint themselves and I used to think: how self centered can you get?? It is a time honoured tradition going way back to the old masters; but at some point - thanks an instructor in a course I took about twenty years ago - I started to realize that there are many practical reasons for doing so. You don't have to worry about finding and paying for a model and you can experiment and explore skin tones, backgrounds, anatomical structure, and composition as many times as you like, learning an awful lot as you go along.
A little while ago I was invited to take part in a collaborative project by a local group of artists - Artists in the Village. For some time I had been thinking of trying my hand at it anyway, so I accepted the challenge it would be for me as an abstract painter. An extra challenge was that it had to be on a small canvas - just 10 x 10" - and I am much happier on larger sizes. I found the project intriguing: twenty small self portraits by twenty artists, done in whatever way, to be combined into one work by either gluing or screwing them together and then exhibited at the Municipal Hall and one other location I think, with the idea of promoting the arts.
I just handed over my contribution - see above - and let me tell you: it didn't come easily but required a lot more work than I had anticipated, partly because I got totally caught up in it. And I wanted to somehow merge the two opposites: portraiture and abstraction in a way that worked both as a recognizable portrait and as a painting that would relate to my other abstract work. A tall order for someone who have never painted a self portrait except as an art student way back when! I have done lots of lifedrawing, including faces, but few attempts at paintings, as I have never been happy with skintones - especially in acrylics because they dry darker, so that what you apply is not what you get! But not for the last twenty years - and I still don't like pink!!!
I think that I'm quite happy with it as a study, and it was a wonderful way of making myself do something that was an intimidating challenge! I don't know when it will be ready and I have no idea who the other artists are, so it will be very interesting - as well as a complete surprise to see the finished project!!
And I think that I will continue to pursue (self)portraits at times in the future - mainly when I need a change of pace from my other work.
This new painting is just finished, but as usual it may still need a few adjustments. That always seems to be the case with most of my work - but it has now reached the point where I have to stop staring at it critically while just finding faults! I need to put it away for a bit, forget about it and then come back with fresh eyes in order to view it as a whole without getting stuck with all the little details.
Its creation has been a bit disjointed due to a number of other events that also needed my attention such as getting ready for the show at the Fort Gallery as well as the work generated by promoting and hanging the show, planning and arranging the Opening Reception, being available to be present in the gallery as needed and just last Monday taking it all down. Not to mention the time consuming driving back and forth - a two hour roundtrip that at times seems endless.
The Opening was very well attended as was the show as a whole with much positive feedback and I must admit, that it really was an excellent show with some 20 paintings in different sizes, about 9 small fused glass/wax combinations (lovely), and several sculptures large and small. A show to be proud of!
Unfortunately not a single painting sold, though one large and at least four small bronze sculptures did; this points towards a tendency that I have noticed before: paintings are very hard to sell, partly due to the fact that there is a lot of paintings on the market of very different quality, including the sheer number of mass produced reproductions, prints and so on - and many people do not seem to appreciate the difference between an original, one of a kind painting and a less expensive, mass produced reproduction. This was brought home to me loud and clear at the opening when a very friendly man was admiring one of my paintings, but then went on to say: "I can really see this on a big brick wall in Downtown Vancouver - it would look amazing"! All well and good, but then he continued with: "you could sell hundreds of them"!!!! I know that he meant well and thought that he gave me encouraging advice - but at the same time he showed no understanding of the value of a unique work of art versus say, a print without texture and depth. Another thing is that with the enormous amount of very popular art classes being offered, many people think that painting is easy, anyone can do it, so why pay for one? But as one of the masters famously said: "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but extremely difficult when you do" - Edgar Degas!
But no one would think that anyone can go home and make a bronze sculpture!!!!
I find it sad and discouraging and at times wonder, why I keep on with it - and maybe I should just give it up? Only thing is, that I never last very long before starting again; or I would go crazy!