The Self Portrait can be a nerve wrecking assignment because you are forced to look at yourself for long periods of time. I was nice to my students and allowed them to work from photos. But I remember having to create dozens of self portraits using a mirror; staring at myself, watching myself breathe, and forced to see all of my flaws. I remember not liking the drawings at all. Perhaps it was because I didn't have the amount of focus that I have now. It could also be that I just wasn't comfortable being the person I was. Or maybe I just didn't know who I was.
The four blue self portraits are from my sophomore year in college. I believe I used charcoal on blue toned paper. The proportions are so off, but I these were my first portraits drawing form a mirror. If I remember correctly, we had to draw ourselves from different angles: straight forward, 3/4 view, looking up, looking down, and a large portrait including the body. I never liked these drawings, but do artists ever like their own work?
My second year teaching at Warren, I was given my Intermediate Drawing class. It was my first time teaching an advanced level. In my ambitious excitement, I decided it would be great for students to create portraits that really explore emotions. Each student had to choose one emotion and draw 5 people expressing that emotion. The portraits were about 3x5 or 4x6 in size. They used Prismacolor colored pencils on a thick vellum paper. This is one of the last self portraits I have done in quite a long time. Here is the sample I created of the emotion confused.
It has taken some pretty big obstacles and life lessons for me to accept a lot about myself. But I feel the journey of getting to that acceptance of oneself is vital. Without that journey, we might never care to ask ourselves those important questions which lead to revealing answers.
I sometimes wish my students would have this same curiosity about themselves when they create their self portraits. But I expect too much from teenagers, who spend most of their time making themselves be like those around them. They search for a group to belong to and do what it takes to erase any individuality. A funny occurrence that I see happening is that there is a group of students who try to maintain their individuality, but they try so hard that they just end up looking like all of the others. And never point this out to them! They get really upset when you point it out.
I'm not exactly sure what I did this year, but my students rocked their self portraits. Normally, I get a lot of portraits that look nothing like a human being. But this year, my students did a great job. Plus, there were many who pushed themselves to go beyond the typical "likes" and hobbies. They really tried to capture something more about themselves.