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.