Project: Self Portrait – Research Point

7 - Seventh Self Portrait in 4B

Which drawing materials produced the best results? Why?

I have produced good ad bad drawings with all tools apart from soft pastel but that was down to me being sloppy I think taking proper care with soft pastel would have also got me good results.

Drawing with pencil may have not got me the best results but it is certainly the most precise tool for the job and easily corrected which I think self portrait drawings at this stage (for me anyway) need a lot of correcting in order to get a likeness.

I loved drawing with watercolour pencil as the finished drawing really does stand out but unfortunately because the lines made with this drawing tool were so strong it made me look ten years older. I could have probably kept working on it to get more of a likeness but I didn’t want to ruin the drawing.

Until I made the last drawing the watercolour pencil was my favourite self portrait, even though the conte pencil drawing doesn’t look like me I am, it is very expressive and I am very satisfied with the results.

Does your self portrait look like you? Show it to a couple of friends or family members and note down their comments.

There is an element of me each in each one of the drawings in this project, some drawings look more like me than others. The younger students had the best comments which were mainly ‘mr Mark! Children see differently from adults the fact that all us white folk look the same also helps.

Friends and family mostly said the same thing, that they made me look older and didn’t do me justice, I do agree with them to a point, I’m only 40 and the drawings make me look at least 50 apart from the drawing below, which has the best likeness, even though the rough hatching does add a few years to me.

7 - Seventh Self Portrait in 4B
7 – Seventh Self Portrait in 4B

Did you find it easy to convert your sketches into a portrait?

My sketches weren’t converted into portraits, each portrait was a fresh drawing with my head in a different position but with each drawing I did I do think I improved a lot, the preliminary sketches  in the Drawing Your Face Exercise did get me used to ‘drawing my face’ and head and so it was a lot easier in this ‘A Self Portrait‘ exercise.

Were your preliminary drawings adequate?

I really do need a lot more practise but I do think that my preliminary drawings got me to a stage where I am quite confident to do a self portrait without worrying if it is going to look like me or not. They taught me how to he key features correct and why the shape of the head is so important for a true likeness.

Project Self Portrait : Exercise – a Self Portrait

8 - Eigth Self Portrait in Conte and Chinese White Pencil

I was looking forward to this exercise, the only other time I had done a self portrait was at the start of this course last year which was basically a 40 minute sketch to christen my sketch book. I did quite well with that and I thought I would do great after learning so much.

Self portrait in my 6 x 9 Sketchbook
Self portrait in my 6 x 9 Sketchbook

I started by drawing with ballpoint in my sketchbook, the first sketch took 25 minutes and really didn’t resemble me at all. The shape of the head was good and I got the hairline just right, even the eyebrows were ok but everything else was well out. I was drawing looking into a mirror on my coffee table so it was difficult to keep the angles every time I lifted my head up from my sketchbook.

1 - First Self Portrait in Ballpoint - with hair
1 – First Self Portrait in Ballpoint – with hair

The second drawing was a bit better, I always seem to start on the left eyebrow and then draw in the shape of my head from the top of my ear to the crown of my head and then draw the rest of the top left-hand corner of my head. Then when I have something to work from I draw in my nose and then over onto the right eyebrow, shadow on the right eye and then mouth and chin, with the folds of skin from my cheeks framing my nose mouth and chin. Although this technique helps me work fast sometimes it doesn’t come together as it should do and I end up looking like someone else. I not only look older in the drawing below but from a distance I look like a posh toff with a monocle in my right .eye

2 - Second Self Portrait Ballpoint and Oil Pastel
2 – Second Self Portrait Ballpoint and Oil Pastel

Again the drawing below didn’t come together as I’d planned and I ended up looking like a completely different person with just my features all out of proportion, namely my chin and area above my upper lip/below my nose.

3 - Third Self Portrait in 4B
3 – Third Self Portrait in 4B

I showed the photos above around, my girlfriend said they don’t look like me while all my students said ‘Mr Mark’ straight away.

From there I had some light brown ingres paper left , about A4 size, so took a photo of me laid on the sofa and made a sketch in soft pastel, I should have taken aphoto of each stage of the drawing as it looked great before I messed up on the eyes and made myself look like an alien with larger-than-life eyes.

4 - Fourth Self Portrait in Soft Pastel
4 – Fourth Self Portrait in Soft Pastel
5 - Fifth Self Portrait in Watercolour Pencil
5 – Fifth Self Portrait in Watercolour Pencil

I decided it was time to draw a proper self portrait in a proper mirror, so I took my Derwent watercolour pencils and watercolour drawing pad into the bedroom and produced the drawing above in just under 2 and a half hours over 2 evenings. The drawing is spot on, it makes me look about ten years older as others have enjoyed pointing out but that’s the electric light in the bedroom. I have tried and tried to get a better photo of the drawing as it looks great but the photos I have took do not show the colour of the hatching to be as vibrant as it is in real life.


6 - Sixth Self Portrait Hard Pastel
6 – Sixth Self Portrait Hard Pastel

The drawing above was started as a hard pastel sketch to show how the left hand side of my face caught the light from a lamp directed at my face and how the most of the right hand side was left in shadow apart from part of my cheek, ear and below my eye lid and it was perfect until I messed up and went overboard on it and then ended up trying to draw my entire face in detail making this self portrait look like like a rubber horror mask from a joke shop at the seaside.

7 - Seventh Self Portrait in 4B
7 – Seventh Self Portrait in 4B

The drawing above was the second self portrait in 4B pencil, it took me an hour and a half and is a perfect likeness, one friend said that it is me in another 10 years, unfortunately I do look quite old with my specs on but it can’t be helped.

8 - Eigth Self Portrait in Conte and Chinese White Pencil
8 – Eigth Self Portrait in Conte and Chinese White Pencil

I produced the drawing above in my lunch hour at work. I left a drawing board at work for me to use when I have a bit of freeetime and I had an A4 size sheet of blue ingres paper in my sketchbook so I decided to see what I could posing in the front camera of my tablet. However when I opened my artist wrap up, all I had in there was conte pencils in black and sanguine and a Derwent Chinese White Pencil that had been sharpened to over the half way mark.

I’m long-sighted which is probably why I messed up on the other drawings with my glasses off but this one came together really well. I took it home to touch up and do do so I put t between the pages of my sketchbook, which is quite thick. When I get home the paper seemed to have been compressed inside the book and it was almost impossible to do anything with it, which is probably for the best as I am really happy with this finished piece which I feel looks great.

Research Point: Investigating Artist’s Self Portraits

Egon Schiele Self Portrait with Physalis 1912

Ok, for this research point I started by typing in artist’s self portraits on Google and put the artist’s into 2 groups.

Artists I’ve heard of:

  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Frida kahlo
  • Max Beckmann
  • Egon Schiele
  • Gustav Courbet
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Rembrandt


Artists I haven’t head of:

  • Felix Nussbaum
  • Georges Dheedene
  • William Utermohlen
  • James Montgomery Flagg

The two groups included 4 very familiar paintings.

My tutor suggested that I looked at two books by John Berger, ‘Ways of Seeing’ and ‘Another Way of Telling’. I’ve almost finished with ‘Ways of Seeing and it’s opened my eyes quite a bit, so what I would like to do in this research point is to look at each painting and say what I see giving my own opinion of what’s going on in each painting without looking at the artist’s background.

Vincent van Gogh - Self Portrait
Vincent van Gogh – Self Portrait

It’s hard not to know anything about Vincent van Gogh so what I see in this painting is going to be tainted by my knowledge of the artist. The reason why I chose to look at the painting above is because of the colours and swirls that are obvious in his suit and background. It would be easy to say that he chose that coloured suit as a contrast to his red beard and that colour background just ‘happened’. What I see is a troubled man ‘having a go’ at creating something calm, hence the choice of colours for suit and background but then his emotions have got the better of him has he worked the oil into a frenzy, his serious expression on his face tells me that he’s getting lost in his own thoughts.

What I do notice in this painting by van Gogh is that it probably started from the eyes and then he built each part of the face and head up as he got to it rather than starting by drawing an outline of the overall shape of his head. The thickness of the paint brings his face and beard out from the background making it look almost 3D.

Frida Kahlo Self Portrait with a Monkey 1938
Frida Kahlo Self Portrait with a Monkey 1938

If I didn’t know anything about Frida Kahlo and saw this self portrait I’d have thought she had a pet monkey, but then has you start to look at more of her paintings you notice that the monkeys appear in more than one of her paintings and the rest are full of pain and suffering and so the monkey refers to her burden, her handicap the ‘monkey on her back’.

So apart from the pet monkey what else do I see in this painting, if it was me painting this I would have tried to minimize the uni-brow, still keeping it but making it less prominent. She hasn’t, along with the length of her neck she has emphasized it to show a sense of seriousness or to let the viewer know that she is fighting.

Max Beckmann Self Portrait
Max Beckmann Self Portrait

I know nothing of Max Beckmann just his name, and what I would say about this artist is, German, related to the pre-World War 2 expressionist movement. The bottle of champagne and the way he’s holding his cigar tells me that he’s gay and in the upper-class but then again from what I have seen of period movies the upper-class often acted camp to show they were having fun. Then again, is he having a poke at the upper-classes?

It seems like all his effort went into his face which is staring at someone or something or even listening intently to the person who he is enjoying the bottle of champagne with.

Egon Schiele Self Portrait with Physalis 1912
Egon Schiele Self Portrait with Physalis 1912

If I didn’t know who Egon Shiele was or read the book ‘Schiele’ by Reinhard Steiner this painting didn’t have a date on it I would have said late 1970s – mid 1980s as it makes me think about the post punk musical movements of that time. Rebellious, experimental, maybe the expressionist movement and New Wave music were driven by the same things, boredom and the need to break off and experiment. The look in Schiele’s face tells me ‘this is me, this is who I am, take it or leave it’.

Gustave Courbet The Desperate Man
Gustave Courbet The Desperate Man

I already did a research point including Gustave Courbet which brought me to this painting, as the model he is acting out a role, as the artist he is trying to capture as much emotion as he can into one pose and one facial expression, the ‘pulling your hair out look’.

Pablo Picasso Self Portrait 1906
Pablo Picasso Self Portrait 1906

The first word that came into my head here was ‘Negro’ and so I went to Google and typed in those words exactly ‘Pablo Picasso Negro’ and the first thing that came up was a Wiki link saying ‘Picasso’s African Period which lasted from 1906 (the date of this self portrait) to 1909. Picasso’s African Period was a period where he painted in the style of African sculptor…I learn something new every day.

Pablo Picasso Portrait 1900
Pablo Picasso Portrait 1900

In the portrait above Picasso looks like Crispin Glover in the movie Willard, an outcast. In the 1900s they were still wearing their hair brushed back and so he may have been showing his rebellious personality wearing his hair in this manner.

Rembrandt Self Portrait 1600s
Rembrandt Self Portrait 1600s

I am going to have to be honest here and say I know nothing about Rembrandt apart from he was Dutch. Looking at the painting above and quite a few other of his self portraits, Rembrandt is pulling faces and from what I know through researching self portraits in this research point, he painted more self portraits that any other artist and so this is just another study of his face. If I didn’t know that I would say that he was either showing everyone how good his life was or how good he could paint!

And now for the artists I haven’t heard of..

Self Portrait in the Camp 1944 Felix Nussbaum
Self Portrait in the Camp 1944 Felix Nussbaum

I think this portrait of German-Jewish Artist Felix Nussbaum speaks for itself, he’s not just painting himself but he’s painting the death that surrounds him. This is Auschwitz death camp where he was murdered a few months later. I don’t know how he got to paint this but I’m kind of glad he did, it’s a constant reminder of how evil men can be and how strong people can be in the face of death.

Last Self Portrait by Artist Georges Dheedene
Last Self Portrait by Artist Georges Dheedene

The painting above is the last self portait by Belgian artist Georges Dheedene 1909-1973 (the latter being the year I was born. I look at it and the first thing that comes into my head is that it’s a portrait of a handsome old man with decent dress sense in the pipe and slippers years of his life.

William Utermohlen Self-Portrait (Green)
William Utermohlen Self-Portrait (Green)

In the book ‘Ways of seeing’ by John Berger, there is a painting by Vincent van Gogh, and we are asked to think what we see when we look at it only to turn the page and get told that it is the last painting he painted before he killed himself.

As I was browsing the net for artist’s self portraits I came across the one above and van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows automatically came to mind, telling me that there was something going on in this painting, something not quite right with the artist, so I researched William Utermohlen only to find out that this was one of the last painting he produced before dying of Alzheimer’s.

This was his last…

William Utermohlen Last Self-Portrait
William Utermohlen Last Self-Portrait 2000

He died in 2007 but his wife said he actually died in 2000 when he realized he couldn’t draw anymore.

James Montgomery Flagg - Self Portrait as Uncle Sam
I Want You 1917 – James Montgomery Flagg – Self Portrait as Uncle Sam

I never realised this was a self -portrait but it is and was painted by James Mongomery Flagg in 1917. The fact that he has used himself as the model or himself as Uncle Sam tells me that he was a proud American ‘doing his part’, and earning  a decent buck for doing so.

Again this is another artist who has put himself in a role for the painting and has done so by making up for the self portrait with hat wig and beard rather than just using his imagination to age himself in the painting.

James Montgomery Flagg - Self Portrait 1956
James Montgomery Flagg – Self Portrait 1956

In both of the paintings above he has left the subject (himself) incomplete which is obvious in the first as he uses a white background so as to allow for US propaganda but in the second it is not so obvious as he merges the colour of his suit into the colour of the background, this makes him look almost ghostly or immortal… James Montgomery Flagg was an artist and at his peak was one of the highest paid illustrators in the USA, the painting above seems to be a self portrait documenting a lifetime of achievements for future generations.

Project: Self Portrait – Exercise: Portrait from Memory

2 - Portrait of Putin in Charcoal

I was watching I, Putin a Portrait, when I thought I bet the Russian president was one guy I could definitely draw from memory. I have have come across quite a few blonde Russians while I have been here in Thailand and they all seem to have the same features, long sloping noses, prominent cheek bones, chiseled features and wide mouth with thin lips.

I made some quick sketches while I was watching the documentary, I figured playing it through without stopping would give me plenty of practise so most of the small sketches are fleeting moments.

I also made some notes to help me remember the key features of Putin’s face. My long term memory is great but my short term memory is really poor.

1 - Notes and 1st Drawing
1 – Notes and 1st Drawingu

From there I started the portrait from memory starting with the nose and eyes as they were the easiest features to remember. I drew across two pages trying to get the proportions of the head right. When I was satisfied that I had got a likeness with the face I had to decide where is neck started below the chin.

The documentary showed Putin over the last 20+ years and I had produced a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster a drawing made up of images of the Russian president at different ages. I had seen him in a sweater and shirt , camouflaged jacket, shirt and tie and hockey kit.

I decided to put him in a shirt and tie which gave me some idea of how wide his neck would be and how to draw the folds of skin under his chin (turkey neck).

2 - Portrait of Putin in Charcoal
i 2 – Portrait of Putin in Charcoal

From there I did a larger drawing in charcoal on A3 paper, I was hoping to get more of a likeness with this one but it looked less like Putin than the first.

3 - Oil Pastel and Watercolour Wash
3 – Oil Pastel and Watercolour Wash

The next drawing was drawn in oil pastel and again it looked less like the Russian president than the first two, It did however have nice skin tone until I decided to experiment with a watercolour wash. I hadn’t done any washes and I had noticed a lot of other students had been doing washes over other mediums and I had never got round to playing about with them myself so I thought this was a god enough chance as any to see how an ink or watercolour wash looked over another medium.

Part 4 Drawing Figures: Project – Self Portrait – Exercise Drawing Your Face

12 - Face ears and kneck

For this exercise I started off with 5, five minute drawings of my face describing different angles of my face and head.

I made the first two 5 minute sketches looking into the forward camera of my tablet that was sitting on the table. This meant I was looking down at it (with my head slightly to the right) so all attempts at trying to give myself a chin failed as it disappeared into my neck (the disadvantage of having an overbite.

1st 5 minute Sketch of my Face
1st 5 minute Sketch of my Face

The second sketch was again made looking into the front camera this time with my head level looking forward, which meant the camera was looking up at me and up my nose, which actually came out looking like it wasn’t my nose at all. If I cover up the bottom half of the paper it does look like me but with the dodgy nose…no relation.

2nd 5 Minute Sketch
2nd 5 Minute Sketch

The third sketch was done looking into my bedroom wardrobe door, with the bedroom light on the right of me it cast some really dark shadows across my face. Even though others would probably say that it did not look like me and I actually wrote that it did not resemble me but every time I look at it I see more of myself in the drawing.

3rd 5 MInute Sketch in Shadow
3rd 5 MInute Sketch in Shadowim

Again the fourth drawing was drawn looking into the wardrobe door but this time with my face turned to more of an angle allowing for more light and less shadows. I decided to keep my glasses on again, just like in the first 5 minute sketch and just like in the first sketch my glasses made me look older.

4th 5 minute Sketch with Glasses on
4th 5 minute Sketch with Glasses on

For the last drawing I was facing the other way, the drawing looks more like a cartoon, which I think looks quite good . The eyes however should be looking at me and I just can’t think how I managed to the pupils so far over. There isn’t much resemblance at all, probably because the face is too long.

5th 5 Minute Sketch almost cartoonlike
5th 5 Minute Sketch almost cartoonlike

After the 5 minute drawings I made 5 more quick sketches concentrating on the overall shape of my face which wasn’t an easy task. This time I bought a mirror from the twenty baht shop, and while I was buying the mirror and some toys for the kids my youngest daughter lost their tablet in the shop and they spent the next two hours crying until their mum came to pick them up.

6 - Overall Shape
6 – Overall Shape

Anyway, like I said this wasn’t an easy task, for one reason, as I said before I don’t have much of a chin and so the bottom half of my head is not as defined as the top. I decided that it looked like a cross between an hexagon and an heptagon and so did 5 sketches trying to perfect the shape.

7 - Overall Shape a bit better
7 – Overall Shape a bit better

The drawing above is probably the closest shape to my head but I didn’t realise it until I drew the chin in afterwards with a biro, after I had finished the exercise.

8 - Furthest from any likeness
8 – Furthest from any likeness
9 - Another Dodgy Shape
9 – Another Dodgy Shape
10 - Almost the Right Shape
10 – Almost the Right Shape.

At the time I thought that the drawing above was a better likeness and so I drew the shape across the page trying to get a sense of likeness. This probably did work as I realised it wasn’t the right shape and that it was too wide.

11 - Trying to get the right shape
11 – Trying to get the right shape
12 - Face ears and kneck
12 – Face ears and neck

Eventually I drew something closer to the shape of my head and then drew in the ears and chin and then the neck and continued to correct the shape of the neck until it was spot on.