Part 3. Self portrait

The Process

I approached this exercise with the idea of doing a quick study directly in paint on an old piece of card instead of my usual preliminary sketchbook work. I have been struggling to maintain an investigative approach in my final pieces for many of the preceding parts of this module and as a result the better work has tended to be in my preliminary pieces. There is a looseness to my study work that I have not been able to carry through to final pieces (see assignment 2 for a great example!). I also need to work on constructing with paint and using brushwork to define form without lines.

As well as using the research I have completed for this module so far, I took inspiration from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. In particular I liked the work of Andrew James. His portraits are very expressive and use loose brushwork to create form. He also has some unusual compositions, creating montages of heads and hands on one canvas. I like this idea but am storing it for future use. I was also drawn to the work of Tai-Shan Schierenberg, again with very expressive use of paint and brushwork, and I particularly like his close-up head only portraits where the sitter engages the viewer with their eyes. In some of this paintings it is as if the sitter is studying the viewer and not the other way around!

With these two artists in mind I chose to do a close-up self-portrait of me looking straight at the viewer – something that was easily achieved by setting up a mirror behind my easel.

I used acrylic paint and in an attempt to create loose brushstrokes, I chose to use a couple of stiff (poor quality) paint brushes with raggedy edges. Whilst I was attempting to construct with paint and use brush marks suggest form, I wanted to get away from the ‘tidy’ edge of the brush mark made by better quality brushes. The poor quality brushes prevent the lines becoming too smooth and uniform. The tonal variation within the brush stroke then becomes an important part of the painting with the ground or under-layers showing through.


Surprisingly this does sort of look like me, I am pleased that I have used areas of light and dark to form the basis of the face, allowing the paint to form blocks rather than being tempted to fiddle with the individual areas. This has been most successful with the lower part of the visage around the mouth and nose. The eyes aren’t right, they are too big and the chunky brushes have not been too successful in blocking in smaller areas here. The shadow areas under my hair line are also too dark, which has the effect of shortening the forehead.


On the whole however I have managed a looser style of painting. It is still very sketch like rather than finished painting quality, but actually quite like the effect.

Part 3. Self portrait

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