Self Portrait-ing

It’s hard to really know people, and that fact, I think, applies as much to oneself as to others.  It’s hard to know who you are, and it’s sensible and not narcissistic to occasionally inquire into the nature of one’s self.

The means of mirror gazing are many.  For artists the self-portrait is one means. 

Naturally just as one witnesses different aspects of other people, just in that way it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to discover that one finds different facets to oneself.

And you can portray yourself in different ways.  And why not deliberately seek to know these other aspects of the self?  Or if one only stumbles upon them, that too is knowledge….

What I might look like if I weren’t so beautiful

Okay, maybe I would actually look like this at the time of my arrest.

The kid and I went to see an exhibit of student art yesterday.  Among the works that caught my attention were several self-portraits, almost all of which were larger than life size.  Since it’s harder to draw something either larger or smaller than “apparent size,” I left wondering how all these kids managed to do such masterful jobs with their pictures.  (I have a working theory, but I’m keeping it under my hat.)

Anyway, inspired, I decided to go home and have a wack at it myself.  This is the first.  I know I look awful, but do remember (or know — those friends who find this in other countries) today is the day before the Federal Tax is due.

Here’s some of my colleagues (who don’t pay taxes — yet) looking really super.  These kids are all in either junior or senior high.

This one’s by a friend of ours!

There were many fabulous others.  Yes, I know.  I like the kids’ versions better too.  Hey, it’s my first try!

Scale in art has its own effects, different in every case.  To give an indication of how large this drawing is I photographed it against things (things that demonstrate how erudite I am!).

I’m going to revisit this theme again.  Some happier day — with make-up!  Until that day, here’s looking at you, kid.

Me of Long Ago

Before I let my hair grow very long and looked in profile toward the left, I looked like this.  This image is a photo of a xerox of a drawing that I made at an uncertain date long ago.  I don’t know where the original drawing is now, but since I inherited from my Depression Era-surviving parents a deep reluctance to throw anything away, I’m fairly confident it will turn up.

The blue is an exaggeration of a picture of a picture.   I think it’s very jazzy, very Miles Davis.  I was Kind of Blue, you see.

I have a whole box of ancient drawings.  Sometime, I need to go through them and do my walk down Memory Lane.

Self Portrait of Imagination

Have you ever had one of those idle moments when your mind wanders, and you seem to see yourself as though you were in a scene from a movie composed of your own thoughts?    Some part of your “me” who is the director tells the cameraman where to stand to get the shot, and the actor begins to act — except you are the director and the cameraman and the actor, and it all takes place in your mind during a split-second in time.  It is not how you see yourself in fact (from the chest down, no face, just arms, hands, a front of a body but no back of a body), nor is it the way you see yourself ordinarily in a mirror (front only and in reverse), but it is instead a scenic way of imagination-seeing of yourself from whatever angle the camera of your mind happens to pan, perhaps from above, or from behind, or from the side, or the front — perhaps interacting with others, seeing indeed the whole space in ways that you don’t actually really see.  No photons are injured in this imagining because it’s all mental.

I must have experienced this many times before I was ever consciously aware of it.  For my conscious awareness of it, I thank Julian Jaynes and his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, which I read back during the Jurassic era.  It’s called “body image”  and it’s a real gee whiz how does my brain manage to do that kind of thing.  Mother Nature is so clever.

Of course as I describe how I was thinking about all this today, that becomes another self-portrait — but I’m getting ahead of myself.  I was wondering about Degas.  Someone’s comment had set me musing about Degas as my “first love” in drawing — when I was young — when I loved with the passion of the young.  Then I was thinking about the differences between copying something by Degas (an excellent exercise) and drawing something in a way like Degas drew — assimilating his ideas as he assimilated the genius of Ingres.  Then as I thought all this stuff, I began to see myself thinking about it.  (It was just a moment of navel gazing, honest.)  And then I wondered “what would it be like to draw the image you have in your mind as you imagine that you see yourself?”  It would be a self-portrait of the body image.

Wish I could report that I sat down then and there and pumped out a dozen drawings.  Would that life were so generous with time!  But I had “miles to go before I sleep” and consequently made only these two little drawing pages.  Perhaps I shall do some more later.  For now, I pass the idea along for the adventurous reader to try a few of his or her own.

To any psychiatric professionals who might happen along this post, really I’m fine.  And to bibliophiles, you have to admit: Jaynes deserves some kind of medal for construing one of the more ambitious book titles

Meanwhile, the nice thing about body image is that you can imagine yourself younger than you are!

Even though I have a cold, I don’t look like this

I’ve been pouring through notebooks looking for drawings to post.  This is a self-portrait from a few years ago.  However, I don’t look like this.  I don’t think I looked like this then either.  Perhaps on a really bad day, I bear some resemblance to this if I am having a serious state of the blahs.  Even now, in the grip of my cold, I look much better.  It matters not.

Indeed, I post this as an example of the virtues of self-portraiture, benefits that transcend likeness.  You can use yourself to try out ideas, to make emotional statements —  or just to model funny hats — it worked for Rembrandt  (though I prefer to use squirrels for that).  The drawing doesn’t have to look like you to be a provocative drawing.  It just has to be what it is.  And it communicates what it will.

What I like about this drawing, though (and what I hope it reveals about me) is its economy of line.  That constitutes (I hope) my “portrait” in it.  Like the line that describes the top of my head — that’s got some punch.  It’s bold drawing.  (One wants to be bold.)

[Top of the post:  Self-portrait in the pose of Melancholia, by Aletha Kuschan]