Self-Portraits

Posted on 25.11.2012

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I spent all of my time in my last two years of high school trying to achieve one thing in my art: to draw a self-portrait that I was happy with. I came to this decision after drawing my first. It was in pencil, and I did it during the summer with a mirror that used to hang in my bathroom. I took the mirror into my room and used it from then on to draw myself, over and over again. I was unhappy with my first self-portrait, because I had done the eyes wrong. One of them was more open than the other, and I was mad because when you looked at the drawing, it was as if half of my face was one person, and the other half was an entirely different one. I sat there in front of it, on my bedroom floor, putting my hand up to cover one side, and then the other.

I knew even then that all faces are asymmetrical. I knew it. But I looked at that drawing and didn’t see myself. I saw a collection of parts that were mine, but didn’t come together to make me. But if you were to look at each feature individually, and then look at my face, you’d agree they were all mine and drawn correctly.

We are our own worst critics, and from the completion of that drawing on, my idea was that if I could draw a portrait of myself that I was happy with, then I’d officially be proud of my work and would feel confident enough to draw anyone else. Or anything at all, period. I embarked on a three-year project of drawing no-one but myself (and art models, once I got to college, but never focusing on their faces) in hopes of ‘getting my face right’.

I never got my wish. I never made a drawing of my face that I was happy with. If you ask anyone who has seen them, everyone would tell you they are great, they look like me, they are ‘better than (they) could have done’. Yeah, sure, high words. But I was never happy enough with them. I never gained the confidence to draw anyone else. I still freeze up if I want to draw someone’s portrait. I kind of just don’t, I photograph them. I drew that first self-portrait when I was 15. That was about 16 years ago.

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I took this photo of myself a few days ago.

I woke up this morning realizing that for the past 16 years, I’ve thought I was drawing myself wrong, and therefore not very good at drawing, because of how I ‘messed up my eyes’. Repeatedly.

Before there were smartphones and before I knew how to work a camera, I was drawing myself, correctly, and thinking it was wrong because I never took this photo of myself back then. Because I didn’t have a camera until the following year, and from that point on, I was photographing OTHER PEOPLE. Because NO ONE took this photo of me back then, so I thought that what I was drawing was wrong and unfocused. It’s amazing what we see when we’re just looking, and what we see when we have a photograph to look at.

I woke up this morning thinking about how, for the past 3 years, I’ve been using the liquefy tool to open up my left eye IN EVERY PHOTO I POST ONLINE.

It’s amazing what we forget until it’s time to remember.

And now all I want to do is sit in front of a mirror and try to draw myself again. I’m so mad at myself for how critical I’ve been for the past 16 years in regards to this one, stupid thing.

Sadly, drawing myself again will have to wait until I plan out my classes for the coming week and have some available daylight. But I’m going to do it, and I’m going to be happy with whatever comes out. I’ve been too critical of my drawing hand for too long, and I need to get past that and back to what I love.

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Posted in: art