self portrait #1One of the contests, on Artist magazines art forum artistsnetwork.com, which I entered this past year was a timed self portrait: 3o minutes to do a portrait of yourself in front of the bathroom mirror. I have done self portraits before, but never with a time limit like that. It was extremely challenging. Trying to hold the same position while looking back and forth between the mirror and my paper added to the difficulty.

I started with some colored paper I had on hand and tried doing a limited palette sketch with black, white, and one other color– in this case–brown, (also an exercise in the book Drawing on the Right side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards, which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to learn to draw or improve their drawing skills). I chose a lavender colored paper because I like purple and I thought it would be fun to let the color of the paper be my eye color. It took me quite a bit of time to get set up the way I wanted with tousling my hair just so (hey I am vain. LOL 😉 ) I think I actually spent almost as much time preparing as I did working on the portrait! At first I hated it. I thought it made me look like some kind of ghoul. Nothing eats at self image like a self portrait that does not go well. It had more Grey in the paper than what I was counting on, and it took me an hour to compete. After a week or two I decided I kind of liked it, but only when the light hits it just right so the paper does not look so gray. I did one other colored pencil on yellow paper, because I thought that would bring out the colors of my blond hair. I did get that one done in less time, but I liked it even less than the first, so I am not posting it here.

I decided make my next attempt to meet the time limit in Watercolors. In order toportrait #4 (unfinished)t in time, I skipped making a preliminary sketch in pencil and instead drew directly with the paint brush. another thing that saved time was choosing a limited pallet of three colors, one being the color for my hair, the other for the skin tones and one for the eyes and sweater. It does not exactly look like me, but It was done on time and I do like it. I especially like the glow in the skin tones down around my neck. the time constraints did cause some difficulty though because it forced me to work wet on wet in areas that would have been better if they’d had time to dry first. complete i

Encouraged by the third portrait, I decided to try yet again. Using similar techniques I tried to get a better match for my hair color. when the 3o minutes were up I still had not addedself portrait #4 the eyes, lips, or background. It took another 15 minutes to complete, reminding me of some of picasso’s work, although that wasn’t really what I had intended.

Undaunted , I decided to try one last time. while completing this one I had music running through my head that was reminiscent of mission impossible the whole way through reminiscent of my do or die attitude on this one. I used the same process as the others, forcing myself to be optimistic and trying not to look at the timer too much. I did get this last and 5th attempt done within the time requirements, i like it, and i do think it at least resembles me somewhat.

When I showed self portrait #5them to my husband and asked him what he thought , he said it reminded him of a free writing exercise in which the author writes whatever comes to mind for 1/2 an hour and then evaluates it later to see what is going on in the subconscious. I liked that comparison. It was interesting to see how different each painting turned out in conjunction with how I was feeling at the time…

Although I did not win the competition, I do feel like I learned about myself and improved my skills in the process. The winner did their sketch in ink and then used a wet brush to bleed the ink for the shading. That’s intriguing. I’ll have to try that sometime.

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