June 28, 2010

Self Portrait

A blog about my own self portraits...how much more narcissistic could I get?!

Yesterday (before my trip to the copper mine) I spent some time practicing in my office (well...MY office for the next couple days anyway) at Cannonball. It has a huge east-facing window that provides a wonderful view of the Wasatch and ever since the company moved to this new building (in 2005?...I think?), I've spent many an early morning sitting in that office playing trumpet with the lights off while watching the sun rise over the mountains. Early skies cycle through the most incredible hues and though I was sometimes a bit groggy during these practice sessions, (brass players often moan about playing too early in the day), watching the sunrise was always calming to my soul and an excellent way to start off the morning.

As I went through my warmup yesterday I was mesmerized by mottled shadows cast on the floor in front of me. There was a slight breeze tickling the leaves of a nearby tree and patches of golden light seemed to shimmer across the carpet. On a whim I set the timer on my camera and snapped a picture...a sort of self portrait...

I've never really done many self portraits and though I've had some success depicting others (maybe I'll do a blog about those in the future) whenever I've attempted to illustrate myself, I always feel my efforts come up a little short. In fact, yesterday's photo may top my list of most successful self portraits.

And this one (done as a cover for a homework portfolio in Mrs Penrose's 4th grade class at Willow Canyon Elementary) may be number 2...

I don't mind saying that I believe I've improved my overall technique quite a bit since then!

I have an odd self image. Sometimes I look in the mirror and cringe because I think I'm so fat, ugly and utterly without style. Other times I look in the mirror and wonder why so few people have ever noticed how beautiful I am (even despite being forever unstylish!). Unfortunately I think the former reaction is the most common. I've always been a fantasy nut and find myself completely drawn to lovely and magically-exotic women...real and imagined. I always sort of wished I fit into this category of beauty, and as I'd work to put it onto paper I could almost picture myself as embodying the most seductive features of whatever mysterious and beguiling siren I happened to be portraying. In that sense, perhaps all of my art could be viewed as a self portrait.

Every time I've attempted an accurate drawing of myself however, it's never quite seemed to look like me. While I'm working in front of a mirror I always think to myself, "Ooo, I've got it this time!", but when I look at the finished product a couple days later I see only the tiniest resemblance. The few times I've shown others a portrait I've worked on I tend to get a similar reaction, "That's not what you look like! Your nose isn't that big, your eyebrows aren't shaped that way, you have higher cheek bones..."and on and on.

Photography is a bit different. I may slightly dress up a photo for effect, but there's no denying that the image is an accurate depiction of my physical features. I still get embarrassed whenever I show these photos though. I imagine other viewers are quietly laughing about how seriously I take myself and how dramatic I sometimes try to appear. I can't really help it though...I feel dramatic and interesting and powerful inside...it's just that in public I am often a shy, unremarkable wallflower. When I allow others to see how I view myself, it feels extremely revealing...a bit like stripping down to the nude in public. For that reason, this may be the most difficult blog yet for me to post!...so please don't laugh at me...ok?

I took this photo late one night in front of the mirror mosaic above my fireplace (see my "Holladay Home" blog entry June 2010)...

On my list of favorite self portraits, this next one could be number 3. I like it because it's not nearly as personal as the others and is actually pretty lifelike. I sketched this with a Bic pen (No Erasing!...as I love to point out) one night during my second school year in NYC. I had settled nicely into my wonderful Inwood apartment, classes were well underway, and the 9-11 terror attacks were fresh in everyone's mind...

I like the innocent and careful attention that comes through in this sketch. Feet are full of detail and texture. 9-11 had affected me deeply and though I don't remember the specific motivation behind this study, I'm sure it was one way to focus my mind away from the noxious anxiety I was trying to suppress.

I still have ambitions to create the "perfect" self portrait--one that I'm pleased with both technically and personally.

I'll keep you posted.

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