Skip navigation

Tag Archives: self portrait




I don’t know why I like working on a background that has marks on it already. The above two paintings were drawn and created on watercolor paper that I had “grunged” with coffee, ink, and applied gesso to in advance. Here is a post that describes the process.

It is not just the challenge of working on a surface that has been disturbed that I find interesting. It is examining the marks and finding a subject that they work with or discovering new ways of working with or around abstract marks. It is seeing that all these marks can increase the feeling of depth in some paintings.

The top painting is Teddy, my dog. The bottom one is a self portrait.


I followed a suggestion from the artist and author, Betsy Dillard Stroud.  She wrote a book titled The Artist’s Muse in 2006. The book comes complete with decks of cards that have creative art exercises listed on them. I tried one of them for the above self portrait. The instructions were to choose one color to represent your spiritual self; one to represent your physical self and a third to represent your mental self.  Then you are to take those three colors and create a self portrait. I chose quinachridone orange (copper kettle) for physical self, quinachridone gold for spiritual self, and phthlocyanine blue (arctic ice) for mental self.


These three colors are the three you see on the top row of the image above. The other blobs are example mixtures of those three colors.

I was very skeptical as I began to work on this, but was presently surprised by the results very early on in the painting. It was relaxing to be concerned with only three colors (not as daunting as I supposed).  More than any other exercise I’ve done, I quickly began to realise the importance of value as compared to the small role that color plays. I  also learned a great deal about how I could stretch these three colors and what they looked like combined with each other. I also learned how they behaved and looked when applied dark, applied light and when I used them to glaze, one over the other. I will try more of these three color paintings in the future. Maybe I will choose my colors for other reasons for other subjects. Colors that I think look angry or colors that may reflect the colors of a rainy day. There’s no end to how I could assign three colors to a painting!

I rate this exercise worth trying!



Every so often, I try drawing and painting my portrait while staring at myself in a mirror.  I had asked my portrait students to paint their self portrait for their last assignment for class. Some painted from their image in the mirror and others used a photo reference. This painting was done in an alloted time of 2 hours. I drew it, first, in line contour and used  permanent rose, naples yellow, quin burnt orange, alizarin crimson, burnt umber and Andrew’s turquoise.

I have been visiting  two blogs that post beautiful watercolors on a surface called Masa paper.   Here is an example of one of Susan Cornelius paintings on her blog titled Conversations with the MuseThe other paintings  have been on Myrna Wacknov’s blog  titled Creativity Journey.

My next step was to go in search of a good tutorial that outlined the steps I would need to take to create a Masa paper painting as I could not attend either of these artists’ workshops.  I found a good description on Jeanette Jobson’s blog here.

My Granddaughter had been asking me if she could do another art project with me and I thought that she might enjoy the idea of crumpling and wetting a piece of paper, re-opening it and painting on the surface. I did have to help her quite a bit with the process, but she enjoyed every bit of the crumpling , soaking , painting, and glueing.

   Granddaughter’s Masa painting

   Grandma’s Masa Self Portrait

I am currently working on another and taking step-by-step photos of the process and will post that as soon as it is finished for those of you that would like to try this.  Until then, Jeanette’s directions are very adequate to follow. The only thing I am finding is that my drawings are washing off when I crumple the paper and wet it. I can’t draw dark enough for the image to survive all that. I suppose I could use waterproof ink for the drawing but may want to lose edges in the final stages of the painting. I may decide to do the drawings after I have the toned masa paper mounted on the watercolor paper. I like the idea of using this crumpled and toned Masa for collage or just for another surface to create drawings and paintings and other collage work on.  Endless possibilities!

   “Me Visiting YOU!”

This portrait was done in response to Linda Halcomb’s challenge to do a self portrait. Thank-you Linda! If you would like to view the other artists’ self portraits that accepted this challenge click here and go to the comments section. Other artists, who participated, have left their links there.

I was intrigued with a post of Carol King’s on using Citra Solv to texture National Geographic photos to make  collage papers. I followed her directions and treated many photos from this magazine by brushing or spraying on the CitraSolv and then applying saran wrap to the surface and shutting the magazine on the photo and saran wrap. After about 20 to 30 minutes, I reopened the magazine, removed the saran wrap and gently removed the wet and treated photo from the magazine. I laid the pages out to dry on some newspaper.  I may have treated about 15 pictures per magazine this way. After that, it became a little messy to deal with. I found the pages needed to be removed immediately or they picked up ink from the facing page. Before beginning the above portrait, I prepared about 50 pages this way. I wanted a wide variety of colors to work with.

I drew a line drawing of my portrait on a piece of 140lb coldpress watercolor paper and began filling in my face and arms. I tried to select papers that were several different tones. I did not have many flesh tones so improvised and tried to describe the values. The tricky part was cutting the value tones in the shapes I needed. I would trace the shape from my drawing and then cut it out and use it as a pattern to cut my textured piece of paper. I used two thirds acrylic matte medium with one third water to make a glue and applied it to the papers with a brush.  I had read in Nita Leland’s book, Creative Collage Techniques, that this would leave a nice non-shiny surface to the work and protect the paper support from the possible acidity of the papers used.  Once I finished the collage and allowed it to dry, I brushed one layer of acrylic matte medium over the surface.  I learned that careful attention needs to be paid to the values of the papers you choose when creating something like this.  Another thing I learned is that collage takes patience!

September 22 news brief on the above post:  🙂

In talking with Melissa at Citra-Solv  I learned they were surprised I achieved much of a result with the spray form of the product. There is a concentrate that only takes about 10 minutes to work. I had to wait about 20 minutes using the spray. I think the concentrate is going to work better. I will let you know. There is art posted on their website and they have art competitions if you are interested, also!

Another blogger, Isabelle, is working on a self portrait with these papers made from Citra Solv! Good job, Isabelle!

Isabelle’s finished portrait here.

  2007  Watercolor

Recently, Alex posted her self portrait and discussed how it did not look like her. I commented and we discussed my adding a self portrait page.  I have taken time to do this today. You will find them here. I will add to this page everytime I use my image to practice my drawing or painting. I am always concerned with a likeness, but you will be able to see that there are many versions of myself on this page. Never do I look the same. Over time, I have not been as concerned with that. These exercises or studies, done from myself, have increasingly caused a chuckle and a better understanding of this wonderful activity of drawing and painting we engage in. I do not know why I did not post these sooner. My family says they do not look like me, but my granddaughter says “Grandma” each time she sees one. Go figure! The above portrait is my favorite of the collection, so far.

Sandrine and Richard have both posted self portraits recently, also.

Blogger friends of mine have taken the time to try to write selfportraits of themselves per my request. They did a wonderful job!!! You can find them here and  here. I had never thought about how one could take words and a mirror image and compose a self portrait in words.  I wondered if it was as difficult and if the mind wandered while writing a description of self.  That critic in all of us seems to come to the surface when we concentrate on ourselves as the subject material. Thank-you Bouzouki and Ichabod for describing yourselves. I SEE YOU!