4.2 Self Portrait

Note: this project is not yet finished. I intended to do these portraits in large back-traced and subtractive monoprints like self-portrait 3. But I am not sure whether although the monoprint approach and style approach is completely different, as it is still monoprint this might be too similar to Project 4.1. Unfortunately a plan to use the drawings as A4 plates for photo-lithography has had to be cancelled because of health issues with solvents. If it is not possible for me to continue with the monoprint plan, I am now planning to use drypoint card and/or plastic and/or Akua carborundum paste. But I need to improve my drypoint skills first at a workshop in August and get down to London to get supplies not available on-line .


Overview and Assessment

Self portraits are different from portraits because you never see yourself as you ‘are’. Always through reflections – that are reversed – or photographs. And how we see ourselves is inevitably coloured by how you feel from the ‘inside’. Unless working from a photograph it is also difficult for an artist to represent themselves in profile. The easiest way to draw is a frontal portrait bgecause you can watch while you draw.

I found it quite therapeutic in some ways to sit in front of mirror drawing myself – trying to get the mouth and eyes ‘right’. But I also found it a bit stressful because I had to look very closely at myself and think about exactly what I was trying to say.

Initially I thought of doing large A2 monoprints, combining subtractive monochrome images with back-tracing like the base image for Portrait 3. Somewhat in the style of Egon Schiele mixed with Lucien Freud and Marlene Dumas. I decided not to put a background – I was very self-possessed at the time. The self portraits were all about my inner thoughts and appearance to the outside world. I was looming large. I found my first large image Portrait 3 quite powerful. But was not sure I could make the others varied enough to be interesting and backtraced monoprints at this size are quite difficult to control.  Also the technique was still monoprint like Project 4.1 and I was asked to do something different.

By the time I had finished the sketches I had also started to feel ‘smaller’. So I decided to try photo-lithography overlaid with drypoint using the more permanent plates and more controllable markmaking to experiment with different colour combinations.

!! to be completed

Portraits check and log
• What differences and similarities of approach exist when making a printed portrait compared to a painted one?
• Evaluate your portrait making process. Can you identify any parts of the process which could be improved?


Approaches to drawing face

I looked at my more linear black and white life drawings.

Portrait 1

This first portrait is based on a white chalk drawing on black paper – facing myself in the mirror.

I thought this would make a good portrait – drawing inspiration from self portraits by Kathe Kohlwitz, Marlene Dumas and Luc Tuymans. I was also inspired by some photolithograps by Normal Young at a workshop at Curwen Study Centre last year and am planning to experiment with overlaying the portrait onto the texture from an abstract image from Project 2.2 to give a textured background.

Katha Kollwitz self portrait
Luc Tuymans self portrait


Portrait 2

Having done one frontal drawing I was wondering how I could vary the view, and thought of doing a portrait similar to the way I often see myself – distorted in video skype where the screen is too close. I took some photos on my iPad and then did a large A2 charcoal sketch from these. Some of the early ‘mistakes’ reminded me of some of the distorted self-portraits of Tracey Emin.

The final drawing I found quite effective – it gets my eyes when I am in a kind mood. I then photographed the sketch and experimented with different colours and tonal range using Pixelmator on my iPad. I thought this image was quite doable as a back-traced monoprint on for example newsprint. But might possibly be a bit boring.

I am now planning to use the last A4 crop as the basis for a two=plate image combining photolithography and drypoint.

Portrait 3

The third portrait was another iPad view I often glimpse as I look down at the screen – the haughty aloof look. Remeniscent of some of the self-portraits of Egon Schiele, Ernst Heckel and Tracey Emin. I did another A2 charcoal sketch from the iPad photo. From this I experimented with back-traced monoprint and subtractive monoprint. This latter I tried a ghost print on tissue paper and really liked the wrinkled pinched appearance of this. I then added some stronger marks in back-traced monoprint in a slightly darker colour on top for the final combination print. I find this a very successful print, but am not sure this same approach would work for the other two images. So I converted thos image into a photo-lithography film print ready to make a plate that will then be overlaid with drypoint.

Distortions like Tracey Emin in Pixelmator were quite fun as an alternative take.

Other photos considered


You should use a different printmaking process for this project.
Sit in front of a mirror with some good directional light from a window or lamp and make several drawings of your head and shoulders. Then do some more drawings using tone. From these drawings decide on your printing method and style.
Make three different prints, trying to capture the essence of yourself.