29 December 2011

Self Portrait (Shoulders)

28" x 22", oil on canvas, 2011

After spending a few months at the beginning of 2011 painting 12 portraits of 16 local Prince Edward County farmers for my Field to Canvas series, I thought it'd be fun to close out the year with a portrait of myself --also since I reached a milestone of sorts in October (that is, turning 40).

I sketched a bunch of different ideas of how to portray myself at this stage in my life and in my artistic career, but I decided to dispense with all the cutesy symbolism and iconography and bullshit and went for the most honest, unadorned portrayal possible.

I had Krista take a picture of me just a couple of weeks after my birthday, shirtless and without my glasses, using the available light of our dining room window (with a big, blank canvas for some bounce on my opposite side). I played with the levels a bit in Photoshop to provide some more contrast, but pretty much painted what was there in the photo: wrinkles, squinty light-sensitive eye and all. You can clearly see where my glasses sit on my nose nearly every waking hour. Plus: even my moustache isn't perfectly groomed.

The only dressing up of sorts is in the background, for which I applied the "matrix" motif I've been using since my earliest watercolour paintings. It seemed appropriate.

Tight pencils make it easier to steer.

Satisfied with the drawing, I held my breath and started painting. It worked out well and the only thing left was to determine the colours of the matrix... 

(pardon this lousy photo* and its hideous glare)

Obviously, after the drawing, my next step was to cover the canvas in orange acrylic, which shows through wherever the oil paint happens to be applied thinly, providing a warm tone. This rather intense ground makes colour mixing tricky (especially when dealing with green landscapes!), but I was satisfied with my flesh tones here.

*I often take progressive photos of my work in case I want to show the different stages of the paintings here on this blog (or just keep for future reference), but this was taken specifically so I could play with colour variations for the matrix background (using Photoshop), arriving at the blues I finally used.

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