Wednesday 18 November 2020

daily self-portrait

During my three studio residencies at Signal Arts Centre, I have always started the day with a self-portrait. I have previdusly blogged about my studio residencies many times, the main beginning or progress posts can be found here (2018), here (2019) and here (2020) and there are a number of other posts that refer to those residencies. For me focussed observation is a good warm-up to making art and a good way to start the day. The main decision is regarding what media to use. This sketch is from my second week at the studio (Oct 9) and the medium is watercolour pencil.

This is also a watercolour pencil sketch, but shows how a different day can affect an observation, even if the same medium and same subject is the focus. This sketch is from Oct 13.

My tray of watercolours has gone AWOL so I was unable to bring them to the studio. I do, however, have some cheap tubes of watercolour (which feel more like gouache as they dry very chalky). I decided to use them up, and first off I decided I would limit myself to using only three colours and one brush.

I found the exercise of limits both fun and freeing, so I did it again the next day (Oct 16), choosing three colours only but this time allowing myself the use of two brushes.

I specifically had set up an area of the studio for making the self-portraits, thus I could leave a wet page open to dry while I carried out other work in the studio.

I absolutely hate using any colour that resembles brown but decided that, in order not to be left with undesirable tubes of paint, I would choose three colours that I normally wouldn't touch with a 10 foot brush: burnt umber, yellow ochre and burnt sienna. Once again I allowed myself the use of two brushes for this sketch of Oct 19.

Giving the paints a break, I decided on Oct 20 to use a soft 6B pencil for my daily self-portrait. It was to be my last self-portrait in the studio for the month of Oct, as I packed up supplies to bring home since another level 5 lockdown was due to start.

Although I would have been able to continue working from the Signal studio, at least part-time, I decided that I simply needed to keep up the work momentum of my residency in my studio at home. With this in mind I have continued the practice of a daily warm-up self-portrait before doing any other work. The first example of this is the blind contour drawing of Oct 21. This is an enjoyable technique of intense observation without reference to the surface on which one is drawing and without lifting your medium from the page so that the line is continuous.

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