Last night I saw the Boston Pops and then got dumped with a foot of snow. It’s definitely the Holidays. So to honor this magical time of year, I have done a small Christmas themed self-portrait.
It has been a while since I’ve done a self-portrait. I used to do them all the time for school, but now that I have more control over my subject matter I just don’t have the urge to set up a mirror and paint myself too much. That being said, that’s exactly what I did for this. I unhooked a mirror from its wall, set it up on a large easel, and popped open a smaller travel easel to hold my canvas.
Originally, I started off the painting with line. But that didn’t work for me. So I wiped it out and blocked in shapes with a mix of raw sienna and burnt sienna. Then I painted the hat. I figured it would help me decide on a scale and prevent my head from growing off the page as I painted.
I worked my way around the head, using the background color of raw umber to whittle down the shape. After establishing the lips and the general nose area I became a little perturbed with myself. I couldn’t seem to get a proper likeness. So I started on the left side of the face and worked on establishing small relations of color and value. I usually use an approach like this when I’m frustrated. Concentrating on a small section alleviates the pressure of an entire painting. Eventually, I got to where I was happy with the painting again.
Because I started painting at 3 in the afternoon and it gets dark at 4, I wound up running out of daylight. Now, I had planned ahead for that and set up my easel so my light source was an artificial ceiling light, but that didn’t prevent me from having to work in dim lighting. The lights in my house don’t get very bright in general and I often find myself wishing I could crank them up a few notches. The dim lighting tends to make the paints appear a different color than they are. On this painting I found myself mixing the colors lighter than they needed to be. I had to go back multiple times and darken them in order to get what I wanted.
Despite my trials and struggles, I wound up liking the painting in the end. I got the likeness where I wanted and managed to hold myself to only 4 hours of painting. Hopefully these weekly paintings will help me develop speed.