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Assignment 3 – A Self Portrait – Research

For this assignment I chose to paint a self portrait, living alone that seemed to be the best bet. The painting was going to be in acrylics on a canvas panel, I wasn’t going to start using oils this far into the course especially on an assignment piece.

To begin with I began some self portrait studies in the medium I had started to like so much, water soluble oil pastels, these can be used wet or dry so I could do some experimenting with them here.

1 - A Nod to A Scanner Darkly

1 – A Nod to A Scanner Darkly

With the first study I wanted to continue playing around with line like I had in Assignment 2. I began by drawing in the outlines in pencil then drawing over strong outlines with a Pentel brush pen before adding detail and tone in water soluble oil pastels, wet for the face and dry for the clothes. I chose my background wisely with light shining in from a window (at school) and a bright orange picture board. I liked the way the light reflected off my head and used this in the study by leaving that part of my head oil pastel free with the line determining the outline of my head.

Up until now apart from the Conveying Character exercise I hadn’t really included any background in a portrait painting. Would I paint one in the final piece? I’m not sure where this would take me but hopefully the following research would help me to determine that. From here I went on to look at self portraits where the artists used line.

Self Portrait with Line

van Gogh - Self Portrait 1989 - Detail

van Gogh – Self Portrait 1989 – Detail

My search for self-portraits with line took me in a different direction, while I was actually looking for famous self-portraits or portraits that had some kind of outline I came across artists who had created whole paintings using line, such as Vincent van Gogh.

In Self-Portrait 1989 (left) van Gogh uses thick brushstrokes to create a serious weathered look to his face and to depict hair and facial hair. The line he uses for the background is equally important, it turns a plain background into a significant part of this painting.

 

Nikos Gyftakis - Self-portrait 1 - oil pastel on canvas

Nikos Gyftakis – Self-portrait 1 – oil pastel on canvas

Nikos Gyftakis, a 33 year old Greek artist, produces some amazing portrait and self-portrait oil paintings where he uses swirls of line to depict depth and contortions in the faces. A number of his portraits include background which he has also used the thick swirls of paint to distort, leaving the viewer to make their own mind up to what is actually in the background.

Self Portrait 1 (right) includes no background whatsoever and the entire canvas is filled up with the face and hands. I love this piece but I have to question, is this technique feasible with acrylic in the short time I have for this assignment? and would it be easy enough to replicate on a smaller canvas?

 

3 - Peaky Blinder

2 – Peaky Blinder

The next study was a result of this research. Using the same medium I drew myself this time using my hat as a prop using swirls of colour. I kmew I couldn’t replicate the technique perfectly with this medium but I could get some idea as to what the piece would look like in a painting medium such as acrylic or oils.

 

 

 

 

 

More Self-Portrait Studies

2 - Fauvism Inspired

3 – Fauvism Inspired

Moving away from the window I set myself down so that I had the brightly coloured picture board behind me. Inspired by the research into fauvism in the earlier portrait reserach  I used quite a limited palette of fairly bright colours and carrying on with more experimentation into using line in my portrait I used only vertical line to complete the picture apart from the check on the shirt.

I really liked the way this turned out, it reminded me of not just the fauve painters’ portraits but with the texture of the paper it kind of reminded me of the pointillist portraits as well.

 

 

Fauvist Portraits

André Derain - Portrait of Henri Matisse 1905

André Derain – Portrait of Henri Matisse 1905

Researching fauvism I came across the painters I had researched in the earlier research point such as Henri Matisse as well as some new ones. One fauvist portrait I really liked and in a style that would probably suit the study above was a  André Derain’s Portrait of Henri Matisse (1905). I later found out that Derain was the joint founder of Fauvism along side Matisse. His technique in this painting was very crude with what seemed to be a large flat brush and yet parts of the painting could have also been done with a knife. A keyword that I added into my search that took me to an artist that i had never heard of before, palette knife painter Francoise Neilly.

 

 

Untitled by Francoise Nielly

Untitled by Francoise Nielly

I love French palette knife painter Francoise Neilly’s  amazing use of colour and how she uses it not just to depict light and shade but all the features of the face. While searching for a video of her painting I came across another artist named Voka who paints similar portraits but mostly with brushes. The name he uses for his genre of art is spontaneous realism, I’m not sure whether Francoise Neilly would agree it seems like her paintings well thought out.

I looked on the web for amateur artists and students’ work painted in the style of Francoise Neilly and they hadn’t quite managed to pull it off, this made me want to take up the challenge. With the right pose, the right colours and props this style of painting would create a good atmosphere.

3 - Experimenting with Line and Mixed Techniques

4 – Experimenting with Line and Mixed Techniques

I had an idea for my next study but I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. My idea was to complete a self portrait with the dry medium (water soluble oil pastels) and then to work in verticle strips of the portrait with a watercolour brush to see what kind of an effect the water blended pastels had against the dry. A friend said that it looked like water running down a pain of glass but to me something about this painting reminded me of Gerhard Richter’s portraits with the strips of distortions across the face. Although I liked this effect I wasn’t sure how I was going to recreate it with acrylics and so I carried on with my search for portraits using different colour techniques.

 

 

 

Pointillist Portraits

There’s no doubt about it, pointillism is a very time consuming technique I have done a couple of paintings myself using a very crude technique and they took weeks to complete the simplest of paintings so attempting to use it here would slow me right down.

Georges Lemmen - Self-Portrait 1890

Georges Lemmen – Self-Portrait 1890

However, the oil pastel on the mixed media paper I was using left white spots and did remind me of pointillism and so there was no harm in taking a look at some of the self portraits and portraits by artists using this technique. One of the strongest of these Self Portraits, other than Vincent van Gogh’s 1887 Self-Portrait was this painting by Georges Lemmen where he seems to use layers and layers of dots that are close knit rather than spaced out like the works of Georges Seurat. This seemed to be a quicker, less time consuming method.

 

 

 

Self-Portrait by Chuck Close 2002-2003

Self-Portrait by Chuck Close 2002-2003

Chuck Close

My research into pointillist self portraits took me to a self portrait by an American Artist called Chuck Close, who actyally suffers from face blindness. When I enlarged the image I realised that it wasn’t a pointillist painting at all but what seemed to be a distorted photo-realist painting.

I was lucky to find a photo of Chuck Close at work, In the photo he was working from a photo of himself on a very large canvas and what he seemed to be doing was adding flesh tones into squares that were already painted with an array of colour and swirls to get this distorted effect that looks like he his behind a pane of patterned glass.

Conclusion

From the research above I concluded that I wouldn’t be painting a background in this self-portrait for assignment 3 but I would be relying on a strong technique to give the painting strength.

I really liked the paintings by Francoise Neilly and I wanted to have a go at something similar myself I just wasn’t sure if:

  • Using this technique or at least something similar would demonstrate the skills and knowledge that I have acquired through this part of the course.
  • Using a knife with acrylics would create the same affects as a knife with oil paint. Maybe I could use both a knife and a wide brush.

 

3 - Peaky Blinder

2 – Peaky Blinder

I also loved the technique used by Nikos Gyftakis and the way my self-portrait inspired by his paintings turned out. Out of all the new artists I have found so far he was my favourite. The problem as with Francoise Neilly’s technique how possible would it be to create something similar with acrylics.

What I decided to do was to go into this assignment attempting to create a self portrait inspired by Gyftakis paintings butI would have a back up plan just in case it wasn’t working out. Neilly would be my back up plan.

 

 

 

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Looking at Faces 1 – Research Point – Artists’ Self Portraits

Rembrandt

The dozens of self-portraits by Rembrandt were an important part of his oeuvre as a painter. Rembrandt created nearly one hundred self-portraits during his lifetime including approximately fifty paintings, thirty-two etchings and seven drawings. – Wikipedia

Rembrandt self-portrait 1629

Rembrandt self-portrait 1629

Rembrandt’s  self portraits create a visual diary of his aging and progress as an artist over a 40 year period. In these self portraits he managed to capture various facial expressions and it is clear that many of his self portrait drawings were studies in capturing facial expressions for his paintings such as the painting seen here which he painted aged 23.

I can only comment on what I see in this photograph of the painting but to me it seems like he has painted this with almost blur detail as to depict not just facial expression but the movement of his head while laughing. The slight halo around his head and shoulders helps to portray this movement. Everything about this painting works, he wants to look jolly and he does

Gustave’ Courbet

Self-Portrait by Gustave Courbet a Desperate Man 1843–45

Self-Portrait by Gustave Courbet a Desperate Man 1843–45

Gustave’ Courbet’s brilliant self portrait ‘a Desperate Man 1843 is painted with almost photo-realism. In this painting he has managed to capture not just worrying facial expressions which is the theme of the painting but an energy. The light and shade in the folds of his shirt gives the painting even more life.

In this painting as with Rembrandt’s self portrait above the artist uses soft skin tones for the face but his emphasis on his red cheeks brings real emotion to the painting.

The title says desperation but with  the facial expressions and the position of his hands that seem to be going through his hair this could be mistaken for fear.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait 1889

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait 1889

Van Gogh is an artist who is well-known for his self portraits. Although painted in different moods, using different techniques and painted in  several different styles most of these resemble each other giving us a good idea of what the artist looks like or what he saw himself as. There are a few photos on the internet which people claim to be of the artist at different stages of his life although there is doubt about if they are really him is recognizable to us through his self portraits.

These paintings portray the artist in different hats, different clothes, with a pipe in his mouth, bandaged ear and even through some of his personal items without him being in the painting.

Van Gogh seems to paint his self in a fairly aggressive style, with thick paint and lively brush strokes, most of which to me seem like he painted them in an agitated manner, although colours and composition were clearly thought out.

Self-Portrait 1889 above was the one that stood out as I was going through the images of van Gogh self portraits, I try not to glance at SP with Bandaged Ear anymore, it’s like the boring part of a movie that you skip through to get to the good bit.

In the painting above like most of his paintings he portrays himself an artist I don’t kow what kind of an impression he tried to convey but serious, artist in thought is the impression we get or is it just because we know van Gogh?

Gauguin Portrait of van Gogh

Gauguin Portrait of van Gogh

Through this portrait of van Gogh by friend Paul Gauguin we get a chance to look at the artist through someone else’s eyes. In this painting Gauguin depicts him painting one of his famous sunflower paintings wearing a jacket with lined lapel that he can be seen wearing in his self portrait Spring 1887. The painting by Gauguin is painted at an angle that looks to be slightly from above as though Gauguin was standing or on a higher chair than his friend.

The painting does resemble van Gogh because we know it’s him and he’s painting sunflowers, however if the painting was cropped to just his face and I was seeing this image for the first time it would be pretty difficult for me to guess it is the famous Dutch painter.

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso Self-Portrait Negro Period 1906

Pablo Picasso Self-Portrait Negro Period 1906

Pablo Picasso like van Gogh and Rembrandt is an artist famous for his numerous self portraits. These self portraits were painted in different styles throughout the different periods of Picasso’s work. When I first saw this painting a while back searching for something completely different I guessed it was a Self Portrait by Pablo Picasso and then checked straight away to see if he was of mixed race typing in the words ‘Pablo Picasso’ and ‘Negro’, the latter being the first word that came to mind when I saw this painting.

I found out that the artist had an African Period which lasted from 1906-1909 and in this self portrait he seemed to be influenced by the masks and sculpture that influenced the rest of his paintings during this period. He was experimenting and I’m sure it’s not just me who sees this when we look at the painting. It’s hard to put a finger on the technique he used here, background first? Drawn last?

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon Three Studies for a Self-Portrait 1979-80

Francis Bacon Three Studies for a Self-Portrait 1979-80

Francis Bacon painted his pictures ‘as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of the human presence… as a snail leaves its slime’ – Francis bacon. This can be seen in his self portraits. Unlike van Gogh we know what Francis Bacon looked like as there are many photographs of the artist and so looking at the three studies for a self portrait we can see some resemblance to the artist in all of the three studies such as receding hairline, parts of the nose and jaw and he has managed to keep these resemblances even after mutilating himself in the artist’s familiar painting style.

Lucian Freud Portrait of Francis Bacon 1952

Lucian Freud Portrait of Francis Bacon 1952

In Lucian Freud’s depiction of Francis Bacon painted in Freud’s very familiar style in which he uses a blocking-in technique to give the face great tonal qualities. Although I recognize  the features such as the deep set eyes, prominent eyelids, rings around the eyes and the shape of the face, together the portrait is not 100% recognisable as Bacon. Is that Just me, or do others see it the way I do?

 

 

 

 

Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud Reflection -Self Portrait 1985

Lucian Freud Reflection -Self Portrait 1985

I really love Freud’s style though, his portraits have what i would describe as heavy, rubber-like features. He’s a fairly new artist to me as I only discovered him during my drawing course but I wish I had discovered him sooner. Like most o his paintings his features in his self-portrait are also heavy and rubbery helped along by the heavy brush and impasto technique that he uses in this and most of his other portraits

 

 

 

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud

 

In the ‘Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud’ right, Francis Bacon’s portrait of the artist in Bacon’t unmistakable style looks as though he has literally had his face smashed in with a paving maul, in his own words “If they were not my friends, I could not do such violence to them.”

An ear and a nose are the only features here that are recognisable but I think what he was trying to do in his portraits of others is to push the boundaries as far away as possible from the subject to do as much ‘violence’ to their features as possible while still keeping them recognisable to him.

How he got to these disfigured shapes, I can only guess that he daubed large amounts of paint on the canvas in a compact area and then spread it outwards like stretching Plasticine or Dough or that’s how they look.