the self-portrait, an unexpected boost in self-love

SHARON’S GREAT ART ADVENTURE EPISODE 13

This week is the second to the last in the drawing and oil painting section of this program.  There is one more week of drawing and oil painting, a two-week break and then we move into acrylic painting, mixed media, and finding an artistic voice.  This is actually the part of the program I have been really waiting for, however, I have learned so much in this foundational section of the program.

I have definitely improved in skill but that’s not all.  There have been lessons that transcend the easel, canvas, and paintbrush.  Last week I joined in on a quarterly zoom call with the instructors of the program, Dimitra and Elli Milan, daughter, mother team.   Elli shared that the reason we have this full immersion into drawing and oil painting is so that when it is time to create we have the ability to approach the work from a position of strength rather than a position of weakness.  A position of strength is the ability to choose whether or not to include something versus a position of weakness which is not including something because of the lack of the skill to create it.  This is a life skill one should learn really, how to position yourself so that you are operating from a position of strength rather than weakness.

This week the work focused on the self-portrait.  Another opportunity to learn and grow in areas seemingly outside the studio, although,  everything is brought into the studio (or any other place in life).  True compartmentalization doesn’t exist.  Everything bleeds into everything.  

There are three self-portrait assignments; a drawing from looking in a mirror, a drawing from a selfie picture, and finally an oil painting from a selfie.  (Unfortunately, the oil painting isn’t ready to share in this episode.  The oils took too long to dry to complete the painting on time.) Drawing and painting any portrait has it’s challenges at least for me anyway.  I have become more comfortable with portraits having done a few in this program but there is always the challenge of getting the portrait to look like the subject.  With a self-portrait there are the usual worries of a portrait coupled with any personal feelings the artist has about their features.  Elli warned us in the training video to stay true to the process of measuring.  She said that artists have been known for example to make their nose bigger if they think they have a big nose, or lips thinner than they actually are based on their judgment of their features.  

I took Elli’s warning seriously and took great pains to approach this task from a place of engaged detachment being very careful to not let any sabotaging thoughts creep in.  In the first drawing, I kept a completely resting face and a judgment-free zone.  I paid attention to the size of the eye (a unit of measurement) compared to everything else on my face.  I took my glasses off not because I was scared to draw them (well maybe a little) but because it is actually easier for me to see close up without them.  I focused on how to translate the hazel/green color of my eyes to a shade of grayscale that would tell the story that they are not dark brown but a lighter shade.  I focused on the accuracy of the width of my nose so that, any previous thought that my nose is too wide that has haunted me in the past didn’t arise again here.  And lastly, the slight sag in my jawline and the slight or not so slight lines around my mouth are very evident in the resting face.  But all of this tells the story of my ups and downs, my joys and sorrows.  I came away from this first self-portrait truly loving what I saw in front of me, those lines, there because of the smile that is always ready to break out across my face.  This from the ever-present joy within that I try to stay connected to at all times.  So rather than the possible negative experience, I had an unexpected experience of self-love.

This is the self-portrait from a selfie photo.  I spent more time on this one.  I didn’t have an arm that was getting tired of holding up a mirror.

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