Art, Life, Portraiture, Self portrait, Sketching, Study

Completion of Birthday Self Portrait project


Self Portrait at age 23
Self Portrait at age 23 – 1976


I’ve explained this a couple of times before on the blog. When I was in college I was given an assignment to do a self portrait and was then given information on the aging process and told to do another self portrait projecting what I thought I would look like at the age of 60. I was 23 when I did the first two drawings. I forgot about them for several years but some time in my 30’s I decided it would be interesting to do a similar self portrait every year near my birthday to see how close my vision was. I had planned on doing it every year and to use the same pose and media, etc so that the drawings could be easily compared. Discipline is not my strongest characteristic and I missed some years and got bored and did other compositions some years but I did produce an interesting collection of images over the 37 years since the original drawings.

This being the year I turned 60 is the logical completion of the project and, although I may still do self portraits on my birthday, the original project ends now. My wife’s health began to collapse this  year, not long after my birthday and it’s taken me this much time to get back to thinking about it. Frankly, it’s been difficult to produce any artwork, since her death and this seemed like a fun and simple thing to do to keep my hand in and, of course, to feed the blog.




So it appears that, at the age of 23, I had an exaggerated view of how old 60 is. Perhaps in 1976, 60 year old people did look older than they do today. They say 60 is the new 40, right?

You can find other entries in this progression in the archives of the blog. I posted them as I did them.

I apologize for the quality of the photos. The original two drawings were reproduced from old slides.

Art, Figure Painting, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Portraiture, Self portrait

Two Heads

It’s always fun to paint heads, especially my own. These 2 studies were done a couple of days apart.

Both are oil on linen panel 8″ square

( I shaved off my beard between them. ) I’m a fan of Ann Gale’s work and I feel like the one on the right is derivative of her work. Having said that makes it ok,  right?

I think worrying about being derivative is unproductive (to a point). You just have to keep painting, knowing that you’re going to make bad work and derivative work and trust that something true and honest will evolve.

Figure Painting, Portraiture, Self portrait, Sketching, watercolor

Gone Sketching


5″ x 3 1/2″ watercolor in sketchbook

Since attending the First Urban Sketching Symposium, a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been spending most of my available time drawing rather than painting. I hope to get some painting done soon.

Please check out the Symposium blog and Flickr site for more about that amazing event.

You can also see some of my latest sketches at my other blog -> Sketchbook Meditations

Figure Painting, oil painting, Painting, Portraiture, Study

Head Study


6″ x 6″ oil on mounted canvas

did this quick practice study to get warmed up for another head study of a friend. This one is much better than the one I did of my friend. For one thing, I can paint this face with my eyes closed but it also confirms my concerns about working with someone in the studio. I get nervous and lose my concentration. The study of my friend is labored and stiff in comparison to this one.

8″ x 6″ oil on panel

Figure Painting, oil painting, Painting, Portraiture

One hour head study


8″ x 6″ oil on panel

In my last post, I mentioned studying Daniel Green’s portrait painting video. I took notes and tried to follow his method on this one but gave it up pretty quickly. Here are my observations about using this method.

1. Premixed skin tones – I premixed colors, as per his instructions, but I found that I wasn’t really seeing those colors. His mixtures were pretty brown, based heavily on raw sienna and raw umber, neither of which are colors I have on my palette normally. So, I abandoned his color mixtures very quickly. I found myself mixing more from cad red med, ult blue and yellow ochre.

2. Drawing vs massing shapes – Green spent a long time doing a complete line drawing in dilute paint, on the canvas, before laying in any masses. These studies I’m doing are only one hour total so I don’t have time to do a complete drawing first. I’m also too impatient for that.

3. When to establish a background – Green didn’t put in any background until the painting was pretty far along. Working the way I did, I found it necessary to paint in the background to help correct mistakes I’d make in the massing of shapes.

Although part of the purpose of my doing these studies is to identify a method, I thought Green was a bit too methodical for my taste. Of course, he’s a professional portrait painter who has been doing this for a living for a long time and he has his reasons for doing it his way. A couple of things I disagreed with were, that he said he always paints the eye pupils black. I didn’t like that. I disagreed even more with him saying that he always makes the highlight in both eyes exactly the same color and position in the eye. Maybe I misunderstood him, but that’s just not right. In my observation, the highlights in the eyes are rarely the same.

Having said all that, I’m not that happy with this particular study. It was better at the end of the session. I messed with it a bit without the model present and it’s worse for it.

Doing this exercise pointed up that there are other things I need to work out like, how to satisfactorily light the subject, canvas and palette so that I can see what I’m doing. I use a glass palette, which I like for ease of cleaning and mixing on, but I sometimes get reflections off the glass which makes it difficult to see what I’m mixing. This lighting issue is something I struggle with a lot both in and out of the studio and it’s one of the things that, for me, takes some of the enjoyment out of painting.


Figure Painting, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Portraiture, Study

Head study


8″ x 6″ oil on panel

Another one hour study. I’ve asked some friends and family to sit for quick studies to try and become more comfortable with live models. I tend to over-sympathize with the boredom and general unpleasantness of sitting. The deal is to have them sit for 4 15 minute periods with a 5 minute break between periods.

My goals are:

1. to develop a method, rather than figure it out every time,

2. become comfortable with someone in the studio while I paint (I spend much too much time alone),

3. hone my observational skills, spend time painting from life.

4. it will be nice to have a collection of my friends shrunken heads

I recently reviewed a video on portrait painting by Daniel Green.  Although I don’t agree with everything he had to say, it’s a really thorough and well organized demo from materials through how to know when you’re finished.


Art, Figure Painting, Life, oil painting, Painting, Portraiture, Self portrait

still alive


self-4-09-36″ x 6″ oil on canvas


I’m still alive and another year older. Every year near my birthday I do a self portrait to document my slide into dementia. Here is this year’s.

I’ve allowed myself to become consumed with stress over losing my job, of late. I work for a huge tech company that has, despite remarkably good results in these dire economic times, continued to lay off employees. Actually in this case, they are offshoring the jobs. As they layoff employees in North America, they are hiring in Asia. I seem to be safe for now, I’m sure, in part, because my job involves training the new Asian employees. But, as anyone knows who works in the corporate, short term profit driven world, you’re never really safe and you don’t know you’re in danger until it’s too late, not that you can really do anything about it anyway. I think it may be that last part that’s most stressful. Working harder and producing better results makes no difference.

Whenever I get into this kind of mindset, I start planning how I’m going to re-invent myself this time. I’ve done it many times before, having spent many years climbing trees, digging holes, slinging hash, tending bridges, pushing paint, knocking on doors, etc. for a living. I’m sure that something will appear when I need it. It always has.

It occurs to me that stressing over something that hasn’t happened is an affliction of living in an affluent society. By comparison with most people on this planet today, my problems are non-existent. Why can’t I remember that?

Despite all my whining and gnashing of teeth, my life is very good and will likely continue to be. I’m still pissed about the “corporate, short term profit driven world” thing, though.

I’m wishing health, happiness and relative prosperity and, most of all, peace of mind to anyone who happens to read this.