On Creating a Selfie

I am not one for selfies… Except, on occasion, when I send photos of myself pulling strange faces, and sometimes with those stickers you can apply, to my sisters for a bit of a laugh.

I don’t really get the whole selfie thing… On the rare occasion that I do take a new profile picture for social media or have a picture of myself posted and tagged by a friend, I am blown away that it, over all other photos shared, gets the most comments from others, as though we are obliged or even programmed to respond and say how well someone appears or comments on their looks.

In truth, I believe mine is not a face worth photographing and sharing regularly… So when I decided I would like to practice portraiture in watercolour, choosing to paint myself was not my first choice. If I was to do this, I knew I would need some kind of motivation and a deadline, so I chose to enter it into a prize (results of which will not be known for sometime). Unless you have permission of someone ‘notable’ to paint theirs, the easiest option is to paint yourself - and so there it was.

I set-up my camera, which has one of those handy flip-screens, grabbed the camera remote and started taking some selfies. At first, I was simply trying to smile nicely, but I quickly realised that, in a way, this was simply showing a mask of who I am, not something authentic. So then I began pulling a bunch of funny expressions, just for the heck of it! But the expression I chose was one I took when I was trying to get the blasted remote to work (it doesn’t work that well)… I felt it showed that whole ‘deep thought process going on inside’ thing… and it resonated with me (strangely enough!).

So the next stage was to begin painting the portrait - in watercolour - which I had never actually done ‘properly’ before. In the past, I have only ever drawn a portrait, and then coloured parts in watercolour, or painted a portrait in oils.

So here it is. Not what I had in mind, but not bad for, more or less, my first attempt I think. I’d like to try some more watercolour portraits, but also explore some in acrylic, as I feel you can get better depth with acrylic or oil… This piece is larger than life too - at just over 50x50cm. (Scroll down to read my artist’s statement about the work).

When I started this portrait, I began with typical smiling poses, but quickly realised that these conveyed no real emotion. I am known for being someone that is ‘always smiling’, but self-examination has led me to realise this is not so much due to being happy as it is due to a raw desire to be accepted and belong. An honest examination of the story I tell myself (we are all products of our own stories) has resulted in a re-evaluation of the beliefs I hold, including those about who I am as an artist. The emotion captured here is that of thinking through a new idea. This is representative of both thoughts I am currently thinking through as I re-evaluate my own story, and ideas I have as I dream up new artworks to create. On my left shoulder sits a curious creature I first painted many years ago, “Penny Farthing Fish.” He reminds all those who meet him that it’s okay to accept those parts of yourself that make you different from others, they make you unique. He is an important part of my own story and acts here like my own personal conscience, reminding me to be the driver of my life, regardless of what others will think of me.