What a self-portrait can be?

My last research is of the self-portrait by artists that I have learnt from Rembrandt, van Gogh, Frida Kahlo and Tracey Emin. My tutor wants me to go a bit further with it.

Why do the artists draw self-portraits?

Do they want to know more about themselves? Do they want to show the audience more about themselves?

What do they do in their self-portraits and what do they want to show their audience?

Do they just draw a solemn face, a face and shoulders, half-length portrait, full-length portrait? Where do they draw the self-portrait? In a couch, in a corner of room or in a bath? Who else can be in the image (a pet, a friend or a family)? When do they draw? 0:00 AM to 2:00 AM? Maybe some artists can put up the good skills at this time.

So what a self-portrait can be? I am going to learn some more artists.

Edvard Munch (12 December 1863 – 23 January 1944)


Munch had a miserable life since he was very young, also his father was obsessively religious. He said:” The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born. I inherited two of mankind’s most frightful enemies—the heritage of consumption and insanity.”

Look at this self-portrait by Munch in 1895. He has drawn his face and neck in Realism. But his eyes are gloomy and dark without light. From the first view, I thought he folded his arms in front of his chest in this lithograph work but there is only a skeleton arm. All the rest of the space is evil and fear black. Will he be swamped by the darkness?

Andrew Wyeth (July 12, 1917 – January 16, 2009)

The Revenant (self-portrait), 1949


In this article Wyeth have drawn himself with most of the body in an interior. It is authentic and persuasive work. The viewport is quite low so the perspective of the wall and the feeling is very effective. Wyeth was wearing a white suit which is colour to match with the pale colour of the wall.  So the lights (The lights come from the underneath of the curtain on the window.) comes from the bottom of the corner also behind of the body. Why Wyeth arrange this? Does he want a special effect?

Norman Rockwell (February 3, 1894 – November 8, 1978)

Triple Self-Portrait, 1960


This is a dramatic work from Norman Rockwell that it seems you can see the process with perfusion. There are a few portraits in this article. As you can see his whole back of the body, a colourful head and shoulder in a mirror and a black and white on the drawing board. A couple of quick monochromes on the left of the board. Also, he has drawn his gesture and you may see his movement from it. In addition to this, on his right side of the board, there are in order of the works: Albrecht Dürer‘s self-portrait at 26, Rembrandt “standing” self-portrait in Vienna (1652), one of the works of Picasso and one of the self-portrait by Van Gogh.

Through this completed work, we can see Rockwell is a stickler for neatness and most of the features are real. He has exceptional insight that he didn’t simply depict his own face and also he didn’t only put attention on his half top’s character. He used humor and humility with a pipe in mouth breezily, then looks at the mirror to draw himself. Yet he didn’t actually draw what he has seen.

Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973)


Picassos is a lucky artist. There are some articles about ” Picasso Made Self-Portraits from Age 15 Until His Death That Show How His Artistic Genius Evolved.”

 http://www.vorply.com/art/list/what-happens-when-picasso-portrait-himslef-for-75-years/ Posted on Jan 10, 2017

Picassos’ style of naturalistic,  expressionism, surrealism to cubism.  He used abstract style thrived at showcasing what he was in this world, painting self-portraits from teenage to a wise older self.


Salvador Dalí (11 May 1904 – 23 January 1989)

Compare to the artists above, even Picasso just used a distorted but fluid line to describe a character. Yet Dali used deformity flayed skin for a face appears to be instead of his character. But he presents his character that with his upturned, antenna-like moustaches. This spectre is supported by several crutches.Though, what is the correlation with a piece of bacon? Why used this pedestal? Why is called soft self-portrait? After I read this article I realised that there are some ants around the eye and mouth also signifying decay or weakness.
What a self-portrait can be? It is a wide-ranging theme.

The personal project

Select one of the previous four assignments as the starting point for your personal project.

The options are:

  • Line, space and form
  • Your immediate environment
  • Outdoors
  • The figure and face

In this part, I have the freedom to pursue some of the things that I am interested in.

I was confident doing my assignment 1, assignment 2 (but not perfect for some interior exercises) and assignment 3 (but a bit like “casting the net” throughout the exercises). For the assignment 4, it is a large aspect so it is never finished.

For outdoors, at this time of the year. I don’t think I will sketch out a lot but I never throw out my sketchbook so that I would like to take it and to draw when I get free time. Maybe from out of the hotel window and on some trips. The landscape is one of the aspects in my future drawing.

So for this assignment, because I am regularly attended the Parish Council art group that will give me some opportunities to get free models so “the figure and face” will be my preferred subject of this assignment.

Self-assessment of assignment 1-4

Assignment 1

Refer back to my cabbage/vegetable still life.



Before I analyse the sphere of cabbage, I should really observe the tiles on the wall because it is confused visually. Then I did a very quick sketch to find out the right perspective.


The tiles haven’t perfect straight lines but they give the impression of being straight.  It is an easy way if I create a 3D background around the still life then it will be beneficial for the objects to stand out with their shapes into space. So why not do it?

The cabbage I have put more attention on the outlines’ chasing and texture then I missed controlling of the tones, so it doesn’t look like a sphere. After I shaded some dark areas and balanced the middle tones. Then took another photos.

It is a little bit better and stands out from the flat paper. My tutor suggests that I pay more attention to the tonal values. So I got the benefit from it now.

For the still life arrangement, I probably could get a better view of the positive and negative spaces. I could leave a gap between the plate and the pomelo then they won’t look so cluttered and heavy on the top of the microwave oven.

I was very pleased that I was very enthusiastic throughout the process of creating this still life and got much encouragement from my tutor. It is not a completely perfect drawing but some parts are liked by my tutor. Like the shadow of the cabbage. So going forward I am going to focus more on the tones than the form.

Assignment 2

This one I paid much attention to the mark making and the form. I am very pleased my tutor gave me lovely feedback. She said: “I like about it is the fact that it is not a standard view, it more exciting than that. You have developed some interesting mark making in order to explore the form. There is both exploration and energy in this work that is good to see.”

My tutor also gave me some suggestions that she wants to see in my work and I will be able to click in further to the image that it can really see the natural lines at work.

The background of this still life, I only gently used the straight line with an entire space not very strong light for the objects. So my tutor said:” you feel that there is certain heaviness to some the subjects, because you left the background sparse, it works fine.”

My tutor said the pineapple and the pumpkin look a bit flat. Then I took my work out then shade these two objects’ darker areas. But one of the mushroom looks a little square not rounded but I have to leave it alone.


My tutor liked my process of this group of still life and she said this shows good working methods. Then I know I need to develop in the future.

Assignment 3

This is a complicated work because it included many aspects.

Firstly the format is Chinese map format but the culture is western where it shows a view from Yorkshire Dales to Whitby via York. I got the affirmation from my tutor that she said it is a great choice. She also encourages me this is such a good insight and one that you can really work with now in the future with your landscape interests.

Then for every aspect throughout the process.

Using rice paper caused me real problems is the drawing process. I couldn’t stop after making a mistake after the erasing the rice paper was getting corrugated and was spreading out the ink and watercolour very fast. The main thing is the thin paper is getting thinner and broken with some holes.

For working through this work. Because there are at least three areas in this illustration. It also includes the connection of two areas. I used photographs when I was drawing this work. Well, my tutor said that the photograph doesn’t help us to understand perspective. That is very true. I was really struggling during depicting the buildings and hills and their contours. So my tutor suggested that I practice on the sketchbook by going somewhere and really scrutinizing the scene in front of me.

When I plan out the draft, I used charcoal to draw on the rice paper but I never think about to use charcoal to get the finished one. Then my tutor suggested me to try this way that she thinks it is will much more atmospheric and charcoal is the best medium so far to demonstrate this concept as a drawing.

The main problem in this work is the perspective of the buildings. Also, allow the buildings to be looser and less restrained. Get them right then I can look through space for a whole landscape.

For the detail of the subjects, I do need divisions between the light and dark areas so the buildings can look natural. I am not sophisticated in this drawing skill yet.

Assignment 4

For the figure and head, I think the best way to help is practice, practice and practice. I have done a lot of sketches but never enough.

Look back my 4 assignments I haven’t got my own style or I didn’t keep the same style that I am confident with it. Assignment 2 and assignment 3, I used subtle mark making, but I used rough stroke by charcoal for assignment 1 and assignment 4. At the moment, I haven’t got feedback from my tutor for the last assignment, so I can only do my self-assessment.

  • I am still quite new to the figure drawing, especially in the life-drawing class for the nude. I can’t draw the right gesture well in 5 minutes. It may be much stress to start with every work.
  • I plan if I can regularly go to the life drawing lesson in Broomhall Centre on Sunday if I am free.
  • I am thinking the proportion of my figure drawing and face.
  • I need to practice some more medium and material into my artwork.

I went to an art exhibition this morning (Oct. 22nd in High Green). There are a couple of art lessons with the tutorial over there. I am still trying to get in their groups.

Assignment 4 – A portrait combining line and tone

On Oct. 6th, I went to Parish Council to start off my portrait attempt.

A couple of quick sketches to warm up.

I have prepared a coloured A3 sketchbook. So I chose a blue paper with a charcoal pencil for today’s final work.

This is the work I have done in 1.5 hours before I left the class.

When I got home, I used another hour with black and white ink to create it more 3D feeling.


Before I left class, I showed her this drawing. She said she more prefer her smiley face. Well, this is her when she is concentrating on her artwork. I have drawn this face as very serious with staring eyes.


During the work, I did look at some artists’ works to inspire me.

Ilya Yefimovich Repin. At this stage for me, Repin is one of the most artists I am learning now. His works are realism and show the right perspective, proportion, and structure. Also, his works are illuminated and have subtle tone etc.

Adolph Menzel. Menzel left many drawing and sketching works. His figure’s sketching especially inspired me.



For the figure study by using line and tone. I didn’t use the time to think about the materials. I suddenly loved a couple of papers then put them together as background. But it seems I didn’t give myself a lot of opportunities to use different mediums to draw on them.

After the pictures I have made I can honestly say that I couldn’t make any subtle lines and tones on them. The things I can do are to make clear proportion, perspective and gesture. Also, I can let the figures appear to stand out from the flat paper.

For the portrait drawing, I used most of the pose that my model was looking down towards the ground. I need to use some more poses to help me improve my skills and make more attempts on portraits with models in different poses.

Assignment 4 – Figure study using tone

I want to keep this attempt part of the same series as the last one. So before I started, I have made another A1 paper with a colourful collage but I didn’t use any receipts this time, instead of I got 3 pieces of newspaper.

I tried some quick sketches on my small sketchbook. My aim is to find out the gesture of the model.

I used HB pencil to draft the outline but the lines are not clear so then I  changed to 6B, then I was still not happy with the outline. At last, I used charcoal for the outlines drawing.

My original idea is to use blue ink, blue marker pen and blue bio. But this colourful collage paper is dark, the mark is not standing out. So, at last, I used charcoal to chase the outline. Then I am feeling the charcoal is more comfortable for me to finish it.

At this stage, the foot facing to me is the same size of the face. I need to change it to the correct perspective which is foreshortening.

Compare to the foot facing to me, the hand is a little bit bigger than it should be. Then I corrected it a bit.



It is a very rough drawing.

Then I got some questions for myself:

  1.  Is it finished?
  2.  Can I make it more subtle?
  3. Does the collage for the colourful paper work better than the white paper?
  4.  What else material should I can choose on this base of background?
  5. Does the collage look alright? Is it aesthetic feeling?
  6. Any more work for the shadows of background and sofa?

The answer that I will refer back after a few days to think about.

I used the whole afternoon and night to finish this work. I think I got enough time for the practice. It does look like a rough drawing but I can’t think of anywhere I can improve the detail on it. I think I got the right gesture for this model. The perspective looks correct.