Attempting a Self-Portrait

Week of May 4 (Part 1)NY NY March-April 2009 210

What better attempt to introduce myself than a self-portrait! My sister took this photo of me outside the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum located in New York City’s Upper East Side. We had just finished walking in Central Park after an early Easter brunch at the park’s Boathouse on Saturday, April 4. I spent five days venturing round the Big Apple while she completed a two month work contract. My sister talked me out of buying a pair of white salt and pepper shaker replicas of the Frank Lloyd Wright building. The museum’s unique architecture and art exhibits provide two treats for the price of one.

Since cSelf-portrait-1ompleting a gestures painting class in March taught by Michelle Torrez, I decided to actually include human beings in my paintings. I usually shy away from them and instead gravitate towards landscapes; one of my biggest difficulties is grasping even vaguely accurate skin tones.

Photo 1 (left): I dived right in beginning with the only colorful item: my fuschia jacket. My legs are far too small for my torso and I definitely have too much hair. Why do I look so unhappy? I thought I might be able to capture more of the building’s architectural curves, but not quite. I haven’t captured my own!

Week of May 7 (Part 2)Self portrait No 2-2

Photo 2 (right): Patterning my jeans was easy when I returned to this last night but I am really struggling with the lifeless foreground and background. Skin tones may be difficult to master but at least they contain a variety of colors. Perhaps my less than curvaceous figure is not as bad as I thought a few days ago. By accidentally introducing brown I have killed the effect of the Guggenheim’s entrance shadows (the triangle behind my head).

Week of May 24 (Part 3)


Photo 3 (left): Folksy… the dictionary definition for which is ‘simple and unpretentious.’ This most recent descriptor for my painting style was coined by Denver artist Ken Valastro and instructor of “Dark Value Boot Camp,” my facetious nickname for last Saturday’s Painterly Painting workshop at the Art Students League. The uncharacteristically quiet building provided the perfect setting for approx

imately six hours of instruction, experimentation, frustration and finally satisfaction as I battled this challenge of value and perspective. After all it was Memorial Day weekend.

All six workshop participants received a scolding on our value contrasts. Go darker was the theme of the day which is easier said then done, but something had to liven up this self-portrait. I set to work at becoming bogged down. After an hour spent working on the entryway and a coffee break later, my attitude finally shifted. I love the Van Gogh-like feature I created! The curves of the off-white wall behind me are a little crooked and the feature pops against the dark purple entrance. Sometimes the greatest roadblocks produce the best breakthroughs. I pushed through creating a value gradation for the pavement. The only event interrupting my determination was finding out that this was Ken’s first teaching workshop since undergoing chemotherapy during the last six months. If I stopped now I would probably never touch this canvas again.

Last on my agenda for the afternoon was improving my own unique imperfections and for the first time in my life I artificially colored my hair. Now I have to decide whether my saddened facial shadows can be left alone and add more personality, or render me incomplete. Check back to see what I decided.


Photo 4 (above): I am still imperfect…with darker facial shadows.


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