I’ve been drawing a daily self-portrait since the beginning of last September. I started a couple of days before my last birthday (I was on holiday at the time), and I haven’t stopped.
I’m certainly not the first person to create self-portraits. Many artists, from Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, to Lucien Freud, and Louise Bourgeois, have painted self-portraits. And there are lots of variations on the theme: Ryan Gander, for example, painted the palette that he used to create his self-portraits, and there is an artist, Bryan Lewis Saunders, who painted self-portraits whilst on different drugs. (He ended up with mild brain damage).
It is not original.
I don’t really know why I started – something of a challenge perhaps?
I have posted some of them on my Instagram page (annies_haul). It is interesting to hear people’s comments:
Boredom has set in at times, so I have experimented with slightly different media, but always restricting myself to black and white. I have longed for colour.
I have also tried drawing with my non-dominant hand/with my eyes shut/from memory. Some of the most interesting self portraits have been with my non-dominant hand, and it’s amazing how (good?) some of the non-dom/eyes shut ones have turned out.
Am I validating my existence? Is it healing? Do they represent aspects of self? Do I need to do this in order to be able to capture the essence of someone else? Is it a load of rubbish?
I’m a stubborn person and I am hoping to continue this madness for a year. I have so far thought about making some kind of stop frame animation using the sketches, or perhaps some textile work…
I think that my drawing and observational skills have improved a little. We are taught to draw faces from a very early age, but we don’t really draw what we see. It’s a bit like the house with four windows and the tree outside – how many of us really live in a house like that?
So the staring at myself will continue. Maybe there is a song in it?
I heard a scratching in the attic the other day. I was reminded of a book I read a while back: ‘The Owl Service’ by Alan Garner. That had a scratching in the attic too - a ghostly one?
Perhaps it’s a metaphoric scratching?
During the long dark days of winter we retreat to the home, huddle around fires, eat comfort foods. Spring is just around the corner and it’s time to heed the scratching (whatever it means) as we begin to step outside and reconnect with the outside world.
I watched sculptor Antony Gormley’s ‘How art began’ programme recently (I’m still indoors… by the fire). He is travelling the world, exploring cave paintings. Some of the art works date from over 48,000 years ago. I was struck by a sense of common humanity: stencilled hands appearing in places across the world from Spain, France to Indonesia and Australia. Gormley talks about ‘a moment of lived time’. Making marks invokes a presence, a fleeting projection of who we are, a reflection of our existence. When we make art we are truly alive.
So, the scratching. It’s time to make a space, take a walk, tidy the studio, consider projects, new directions.
More prosaically, time to think about making an application to open your studio this year. With galleries closing, those that remain end up charging ever increasing commission which has the effect of making art even more expensive. One of the tenets of farOpen is to get art ‘seen and sold’ and opening your own space is a great way to achieve that.
And the scratching ?