Monday, February 8, 2016

The Self Portrait

I've always been interested in artists' self portraits. Vanity is never an issue when an artist scrutinises their face because the work of creating a person is too intense and demands all of the artist's attention. It can also be an opportunity to teach oneself about the intricacies of portraying a human being without any distractions or time limits.

The painting, City Light and Reflections, was a picture I've wanted to do for along time. The idea came to me in a painting class when one of the students was at a loss for a subject to paint. I happened to look at the window, and saw our reflections against the lights of Brunswick Street, so I suggested she try and paint her own reflection. But I also thought about the idea when I got home from class and made up my mind to do my own version one day. One of the difficulties in painting a picture like this is to have the right room looking over the city, and two years later, when I was doing my residency at Federation University Australia at Ballarat, the opportunity to paint my reflection against the street lights presented itself. The background is the corner of Lydiard and Sturt Streets, and the large golden streetlight was a feature I thought was magical.

It was a tricky subject to interpret. The miriad reflections created a pattern of confusion, so simplification was necessary. As the painting unfolded, I made decisions of what to put in and leave out, though this is the case in whatever I paint. Sometimes I've added a subtle light where it did not appear, and placed things differently to where they occurred in actuality. Composition always has precedence over geography, although the character of a place must be retained by not distorting the facts too much.

I think night lighting offers an artist an interesting subject to explore, and I feel this will be a greater influence on my work in the future.

City Lights and Reflections, 2015, oil on canvas, 81.5 x 61 cm

Self Portrait in Blue Sweater, 2015, oil on linen, 46 x 36 cm