A self-portrait made not entirely by myself
By Gwenn on September 12, 2009
Four years ago, I fell in love with my partner. David and I met in August 2005 under some rather peculiar circumstances, but it wasn't until a month later that I realized that this was the person who would change my life in so many wonderful and exciting ways.
Besides being a sounding board for my work, over the years, David has had a visual impact on my paintings--specifically my self-portraits. I paint from photos I take myself of my subjects, and I believe that using photography greatly improves the painted likeness. Usually, it allows for a dynamism and candor that is not possible when painting without optics of any kind, but, in the case of self-portraits, photography's usefulness is crippled since it's difficult to take a lively photo of oneself.
reference photo for My Own Worst Critic (below)
Before meeting David, my self-portrait source images often looked something like this.
My Own Worst Critic
acrylic on canvas
48 x 34 inches
The resulting portrait is very posed. It certainly lacks the sense of breath and movement that I was incorporating in other work from that time (like this one for example).
reference photo for Gwenn Monkey (below)
A year later, and I still hadn't met David.
acrylic on canvas
19 x 13 inches
While the rest of my work (including this one) was getting more interesting, my self-portraits continued to follow a formula. Either they were posed similar to My Own Worst Critic or they had the more frontal and even a little confrontational look, like Gwenn Monkey and this self-portrait.
acrylic on canvas board
14 x 18 inches
These paintings are posturing and self-conscious versions of myself, and they remind me of this one from 1997 which I painted from life by looking in a mirror. Like this portrait of my sixteen year old self, My Own Worst Critic and Gwenn Monkey have that staid and stagnant look of a lot of paintings from life, like the subject was waiting for the portrait to be finished.
reference photo for Contributing Member Of Society (below)
By late 2004, I was eager to come up with something new, so I asked my mother to sit with me as I photographed myself. I was still triggering the shutter release, but at least I had someone to react to as I took pictures of myself.
Contributing Member Of Society
acrylic on canvas
24 x 18 inches
Though a lively improvement over earlier self-portraits, I wouldn't call this likeness candid in the same way as I feel like my portraits of other people are.
photo by David
Fast forward a few years. David took this photo of me at a wedding that we attended last June.
I immediately liked something about the image.
In it, I am making a face that I know I make, but that I would never be able to produce on command.
It's just the sort of reference photo I like to work with.
The expression is fresh...
...but there's something about the picture that keeps it from being the final word.
In this particular case, my left eye is looking a little lazy.
That's the sort of detail that a photo can't ameliorate...
...but that a painted portrait can smooth over.
Here, I've lost my way in the portrait, and I'm using strong lines to recapture the structure.
acrylic on panel
7 x 5 inches
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