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Monday, 22 September 2014

Self Portraits

"When I look at great works of art or listen to inspired music, I sense intimate portraits of the specific times in which they were created" 
Billy Joel

With the advent of the digital age (and everyone having their fifteen minutes of fame via social media) the notion of self actualisation - in screen form anyway - is well and truly upon us. Choosing to portray ourselves in an edited and filtered form via the "selfie" is one that some laugh at and others take very seriously. But this notion of capturing the essence of what we think is our selves in our best or most dramatic light is not a new one. I have always been fascinated with portraits. I love the old pompous oil paintings of mammoth proportion that adorn the halls of national galleries. There is a hall in the NGV here in Melbourne filled with these paintings of lords and ladies. They are so serious and stern all dressed in their best regalia with soft and moody lighting. My partner calls this particular hall "The Room of Pomposity". This always makes me laugh. But I am always fascinated by this room and never miss it on a visit to the gallery.

My self with my partner in the Musee D'Orsay, Paris 2012
In 2012 I had the fortune of travelling through Europe and the UK and visited perhaps my favourite art gallery in the world - The Musee d'Orsay in Paris. This gallery is an old train station reclaimed to house some of the worlds greatest treasures. It is not as large as the Louvre and easily explored in a day. Natural light spills in through the old windows and the curved roof. The old station clock sits above this glorious hall reminding visitors of the past history of the venue. Upstairs there is a terrace that overlooks the Seine. 

Up on this terrace I took pictures of a raven exploring the building. My love for art and design in this building was sparked to life. If anyone asks why I chose a path of art and design perhaps I could answer "I blame Paris".

The whole experience for me was one that reached my core. I fell in love with Paris, with the gallery and with art all over again in this museum.  It was on this trip that I found my love of drawing and realised I needed to do this every day. There is a room dedicated to a selection of Vincent Van Gogh's pieces that had a long line to get in. My heart felt the squeeze as I watched the line. If Van Gogh could have known just how his work would affect those after he passed… I couldn't help but feel tears well up when I stood in front of his self portrait in this room. It was like a message from the past - make art, share art, enjoy art. Don't waste any moment of being alive. It was a deep and perhaps hard to explain moment of coming back to the heart - and coming back to the art.

Self Portrait Vincent Van Gogh
I promptly bought myself a couple of little artist journals and began to put pen to paper. I decided one of the journals would document the windows of the places I stayed in on my holiday. First up of course, my Parisian apartment window:

The other journal was for quick rough sketches. On the first page I scribbled a quick cartoon self portrait:

Although the portrait was rough and stylised and perhaps not the best representation of myself - I'm glad I drew this. When I recently stumbled on this picture the memories of this trip came flooding back. I hope to never forget that feeling of just giving myself the space and the time to be still and enjoy the feeling of creating with a pen on a blank page. 

Since this first roughed up ink sketch of myself two years ago I realised a few days ago that I have drawn myself a number times since then. Looking back over these self portraits I can see the experimentation with style. I also am instantly transported to the lessons I was learning during that chapter of discovering what illustration was all about.

The day I learnt how to use Adobe Illustrator. Although overwhelmed by this new technology I saw the potential to learn this and other creative software programs for the purpose of creativity.
I added the wording as personal affirmations.
Self portrait June 2013 - as part of a self set drawing challenge.
You can read about this challenge here: Cock-a-doodle-do
Self portrait created January 2014 as part of a final assessment that looked at opportunities for emerging illustrators. My signature in this portrait became my official logo which I use now.
I drew six other portraits in this series. You can see them here: Little Illustrators - portraits of Australian Illustrators

This self portrait was created entirely on photoshop - I hadn't ever drawn in photoshop before this portrait.
This self portrait I sketched out in pencil in my journal while lying in bed sick one weekend.
My cat sat up near my pillow and so I decided to incorporate her into the portrait. 
And finally here is my latest offering in my what is appearing to be a series of self portraits. Again, this was sketched in pencil in my sketch book - this time while fighting a stomach bug over the weekend. My cat again featured in this picture as she was on my lap the whole time I drew it. And heck, she's pretty cute! 
I wonder how these self portraits will change and evolve over the years. Will I still continue creating these regularly? Will I still have red hair? Will I continue to feature my beloved pets? Will I experiment with new mediums - and perhaps technology not yet created? Will I still get more satisfaction from making my profile pic on social media an illustrative selfie as opposed to a photographic one? 

I kinda hope the answer to these is yes.

Creatively yours,

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