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

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

Birthday Portrait time again


16″ x 12″ oil on paper

It’s that time again. Looking back at my birthday self portrait post from last year, much has changed and stayed the same. I would have to say that, despite my worry and the state of the economy, it’s been a good year for me. I’m still employed and with her cancer in remission, my wife has been feeling pretty good. My daughters, although unemployed, are living back under our roof and we’ve been really enjoying spending time together as a family again.

As I’ve explained before, I try to do a self portrait every year around the time of my birthday. Originally they were based on a pencil drawing I did of myself when I was 22 years old. This year I decided to do an oil based on an oil I did of myself around the same time. Here’s the original. I did it while attending the Maryland Institute College of Art. The class I did it in was focused on painting heads using old master techniques. I remember doing a copy of a Frans Hals just before this.


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.

Art, Life, Painting, Pastel, Self portrait

Slow Progress

It doesn’t look like much progress has been made from these photos, but, since I had the walls open, I decided to update the electrical system in the house by adding and rerouting some circuits and replacing old non-grounded wires. We’re also looking into replacing our 20 year old furnace and I had to reinstall a door that was leaking. I’m almost ready to start putting things back together. I have to call for an electrical inspection next week and then I can put the insulation and walls back together. Having done almost all the work myself, while working full time, progress has been slower than I’d like but I couldn’t afford to do it otherwise.

Since I have nothing new to post, here’s a mixed media self portrait I did in 1982.

42″ x 42″ pastel and flashe on paper

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

One hour self portrait

one hour self portrait
10″ x 8″ oil on canvas

I have been admiring Kathryn Law’s one hour self portraits and that sounded like a pretty good exercise. I also recently watched a portrait painting demonstration video by Daniel Green. Daniel’s process is to premix several skin tones in 6 gradations. He uses a very different palette than I as well. So, I decided to combine two experiments and try out the palette and premixed skin tones while attempting to complete a portrait sketch in 60 minutes. It seemed like a great idea since having the paint premixed should make it go faster.

This was a disaster. After mixing all these piles of paint, I looked in the mirror and didn’t see any of the colors I’d mixed. Of course a masterful painter could still produce a good painting. Afterall, it’s more about the values than the colors. But this was not a masterful painter, it was me and I choked. Trying to paint quickly with unfamiliar colors was too much and I ended up wiping it down after about 30 minutes. And I didn’t enjoy it at all.

After a break, I did the painting above using my familiar palette and completed it in 60 minutes and had a lot more fun.

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