Exercise: Self portrait

I have set a mirror up on my desk. there is natural light through the window to the left of me and I have also moved my lamp to that side to exaggerate this light. My face is now lit from this side. All sags and wrinkles are thrown into sharp relief. I may need counselling after this….

Using an A4 pad I did a fast loose sketch and then washed over some water colour, picking out the dark areas and shadows. Not sure if it is quite me…a bit cartoonish maybe. Eyes are wrong.image1-66

It is carnival here at the moment, and I remembered my blue wig I wore the other year and thought that might be fun. I did this in my water colour pad, A4. I am not getting my mouth the right size.


But, it’s  fun, and adds colour anyway 🙂 I think the head in the middle of the page like that is good and strong and I will just wash a background in. I might try and fix something up behind me when I start painting. If I can keep warm enough I might try bare shoulders so I can continue the skin tones down.

I have just done a sketch in my A3 pad with pencil. I am feeling excited because I actually do think it looks like me. I am getting somewhere with this now. Mouth is more accurate if a bit severe.image1 (68).JPG

Today I did the same sketch again  A3, using charcoal to work out the darker areas.. I bared my shoulders (it is sunny today 🙂 ) and tried to keep more of a smile on my face. This is better. Those shoulder bones do stick out but I may have over emphasised them…charcoal

I need to look at colours to use now, and work out the background.

So today I was having coffee in the yard next to the jasmine which is just coming out in bloom and I wondered if I could put some jasmine in to add some interest;  being inspired by Gaela Erwin’s self portraits where she adds an unusual detail to make you look again, like this one with the butterfly which I wrote about previously. I especially love how she has described the skin tones. Source: http://www.gaelaerwin.com/oils.html#section5


I have set up a white screen behind me and draped a dark brown throw over it to the right side and pinned a jasmine bloom to the left in the hair, with a longer piece trailing over the collarbone.

I looked closely at the flowers and leaves as well. image2 (44)

I did a loose sketch in my A3 sketchpad  of the scene using my acrylics to try out the colours and the composition. I think the addition of the jasmine flower works well. I can pick up the colours from the buds that match in the skin tones as well and the green is a nice pop of colour and is in my eye colour also. I did this very quickly and spontaneously. Maybe I could try and do the main work that way, although I expect I will end up being a bit more precise….but I will aim for a looser, painterly style. Let’s see what happens…


I painted it out and got the face and hair proportions, and worked in the background areas. I am not sure why I worked the whole face out with the blush colour ; far too pink. The blank eyes make me look like a zombie but that’s it for today so it can stare at me from the corner for a day or so….20170308_163731

A day later and I really want to paint this now, I am out shopping and I almost rush home and up to my room filled with a feeling of needing to paint. This is good, the fear of messing up has gone.I squeeze a blob of all the colours onto my pallette and I get set up in position and my husband takes a photo as I am working, just to prove I really did sit there with jasmine on my head looking slightly silly….no, very silly 😉working.JPG

I did a lot today and in a bold way too. It is not finished just yet but almost there I think. image1 (70)

I finished it today. I went over the flowers again as I felt they didn’t stand out enough.

I think it is a good likeness, but not like a photographic image; I have captured something of myself. My husband actually thinks it does look like me. I am sending this image to my sister and mother for their reactions and will add them here.

I struggled with the neck, as sometimes I think I had my shoulders a little hunched as I was working. Also, the shadows around the collar bones were not easy to describe. I have made the eyes too large, but i think this works to make the painting interesting. I think because I like my eyes but feel the rest of my face is well past its best, I maybe focused on them too much 🙂 I also regret just fading out at the bottom but maybe should have continued skin tones on down.

I found it easy to work sitting down actually, with the canvas block in front of me. If it had been not been on a stretched block it might have been harder, so this was a good move!

Jaz fin



Author: Wendy Kate

Happily sharing my life in Spain with a tall bearded man from Dorset.

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