Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Self-Portraits: Subconscious or Self-conscious?

I've been working on some new drawings that will be done soon, that I'm very excited to share! Unfortunately, my favorite pen ran out of ink yesterday, and I have yet to pick up a new cartridge for it, so these new drawings will have to wait for a few days. Instead, I have here an old drawing that I would like to write about, a somewhat wacky and unintentional portrait of myself as a bald man:
When I was in middle school (not when I drew this, which was later), I worked on a project where I drew a self-portrait once a week for about two months. I was taking generously discounted drawing lessons from a family friend who was studying for her master's in art education, and to start me on drawing faces, she had me draw my own in a mirror. The first time I was asked to do this, my squeaky 11-year old inner monologue said, "piece of cake! I know my own face like the back of my hand!" How naive I was. My first attempt ended in tears (mine) and nausea (my teacher's), and even the irony of the "my hand" simile applied to my own face was lost on me.

Over time, my portraiture became less grotesque. I kept drawing myself in a mirror, and by high-school, I was able to complete some decent self-portraits (ones that didn't make people want to throw up). The flip-side of all this practice, however, was that every time I tried to draw someone else's face, it ended up looking like my own. I was like a narcissistic plastic surgeon, reshaping patients in my own image. I made short noses long, round chins square, wide foreheads narrow, and transformed even the most graceful female faces into troubling, mannish brutes. I had spent so much time looking at my own face that I could not see anyone else's.

Eventually, I was able to break this habit by sketching many, many different people on trains. But sometimes, when I'm not careful, I will relapse with a vengeance. In the drawing above, I was not trying to draw myself without hair - I was just imagining some strange character sitting in a diner booth. But it ended up looking like me!

I guess I'm just a narcissist after all.

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