There is an element of surprise in creating a self portrait. It is like a personality test – the act of drawing is the experiment and the final image is the answer. What makes it particularly exciting, is that the artist is the examiner and the examined at the same time, which allows her to observe how the process itself impacts her.
I have made self portraits before – a couple of purely expressive ones, which I named self portraits only after I finished them, and a collage. Here they are:
This is my latest take on the subject – a fairly thorough pencil study, which I started partly to fill a creative vacuum, partly under the influence of a book which I read recently .
You, the viewers who know me, will say that I do not look like this. And this will be correct – I do not look like this to you, indeed.
The face that the others see when they look at you is very different from the face you see when you look at yourself in the mirror. Try looking at another person’s mirror image to see what I mean. That is why self portraits do not bear the anticipated resemblance unless they are drawn from a photo (a pointless act, if you ask me). This also explains why we tend to dislike our faces on photographs.
I have always been more interested in the world around me than in myself, so my self portrait experience did not lead to self analysis as much as to reflections on self awareness and perception in general and the discrepancies between our idea of ourselves and that of the others.
Contrary to what it might seem, drawing a self portrait requires distancing rather than immersion. The self is both subject and object of the process. While drawing I was thinking of the object as “her”, not of me. Her eye, her cheekbone – etc. – this is what came to me naturally.
Looking at it now, I can say that this is a drawing of me observing myself observing my reflection in the mirror.
The questions I remained with are: who knows better what I am – me, who sees a mirror image, or the others, who see the real thing?
Do I understand myself better after this exercise?
I don’t know. Maybe it is too early to say. Now I am going to put it away and look at it again after some time. Maybe then I will be able to read it more clearly.
Or maybe the next self portrait will hold the answers to the questions raised by this one.