Art, Figure Painting, oil painting, Painting, Self portrait, Sketching

Self Portraits

self oil 3

16″ X 16.5″ oil on paper final state

I’ve done a lot of self portraits over the years and it’s always an interesting process. In my opinion, it’s impossible to be subjective about your own visage. After staring into your own eyes for hours, you become blind to it in some ways and it’s even more difficult to know whether you’re capturing a likeness or not.

self 2

second state
Since I don’t really know what I look like, I can notice myself trying to compensate in different ways as I paint. Sometimes, if I think I’m being too complimentary, I’ll make myself look ghoulish and other times I indulge the impulse to idealize.

Self 11-6-07

first state

In this case, I think that the earliest version probably looks most like me. The longer I worked on it, the more lean and well groomed I became. But, then again, maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Most of you will never know : )

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

When I was in college, I had an assignment to do a self portrait and then do another based on the first one but at age 60. I saved the first drawing and when I was around 35 or so I decided to do another version of that drawing every year around my birthday to see how accurate my prediction was and to record the transition. I’ve not been absolutely disciplined about doing them every year and sometimes I’ve done a different pose or medium but I have enough to get a sense of where this is going.

Here are a few, starting with the original (done when I was 20) and ending with the one I did predicting what I would look like at 60. In between are, I think, 35, 40 and 50. Some of these have that ghoulish thing going on. I think it’s pretty clear, from the drawings, that at age twenty I had a very different idea of now old 60 was than I do now at 54.

I apologize for the poor quality of some of the reproductions.

20 to 60

9 thoughts on “Self Portraits”

  1. Amazing color Bill!
    As far as self portraits, I’ve never painted one I liked. I did do one tiny one in New Mexico that everyone seemed to like but I was mad when I painted it and I still dislike it to this day.


  2. I commend you for your selp portraits. I started drawing one a few years back. When I looked at it, as it was partially complete, I dropped it like a hot potato. I had painted in some of the wrinkles! Thank you for sharing these. I’ll add self portrait to my “WANT TO PAINT LIST”. This time with out all the wrinkles *wink*.


  3. Your self portraits were fascinating. I have constantly drawn myself from school age, and I thought it was something all artists did, like life-drawing. Where else can you always get a sitter, any time night or day?
    I know what you mean about stopping being able to see what’s in front of you. I’ve been criticized for drawing myself with staring eyes. Er,yeah! I was working intently at the time, and that’s how I looked. I’ve only once worked from a photo of myself, and it was like doing a portrait of someone else. I prefer working from life.
    I’ve recently visited the BP Portrait Awards exhibition in Newcastle, UK. It was an eye opener, with lots of self portraits. I’m going to add your blog to my favorites now.


  4. Hey, Bill,
    whenever I did self-portraits in life-drawing, I made myself look younger and younger until it became ridiculous. I finally had to start drawing in the wrinkles, but for a while it was fun!


  5. Thanks all for your comments. It’s always an adventure doing self portraits. You never know who you’re going to be this time. When lined up, all the self portraits I’ve done over the years look like different people but also somehow like me as well.


  6. Pingback: Me at Fifty Five

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