30 Days: A Self Portrait

Copyright EKMCronin 2015.
Copyright EKMCronin 2015.

This is the final day of my self-targeted 30 Day Self Portrait challenge. Outside of simply gaining some intensive portrait practice I think I have learnt quite a lot. I thought I’d share a few of those lessons as well as a few of my plans for the next few months.

1. Time.

We can so often overestimate and underestimate what we can get done. Sometimes we give ourselves New Year Resolutions which are so outlandish it’s hardly surprising we have crashed by March and given up on our Ninja-fitness/language-fluency/published-novel. However, we also think that a month is so short we can barely do anything and so we don’t bother starting. The truth is we just need to be realistic, and I think I actually managed to do that and I’m more surprised than anybody.

I put aside an hour(ish) a night to create a self portrait, and having a routine allowed me to give myself this. I tried not to expect too much of myself so if it was a tricky day I might do a quick sketch, but if I had a little more time I could really plan out a style.

2. Self-Perception.

I have often struggled with my sense of worth, often connected to how I look, but completing so many self portraits forced me to look differently at myself. It wasn’t about somehow believing I’m a supermodel, but instead I had to look at shapes and colour and textures in the same way I would look at someone else.

All of this was more honest. I wasn’t picking out my flaws but I didn’t airbrush them either. Clearly some worked out more accurate than others but that wasn’t due to a hope of making myself thinner or rosier or glossier, it was just because I need some practice – and hence the point of the challenge.

3. Changes.

The last time I really had time, and lots of it, to work on art I was in Sixth Form (last bit of school before university for those who don’t know). Even with all that time and practice there were certain mediums (charcoal, oil paints and pastels) which I found ridiculously difficult and tended to avoid. It was just easier to stick with pencil and painting at high-speed than to push myself, especially as I was dealing with the deadlines that came with coursework and exams.

Due to a few accidents I was challenged to try again and I was pleasantly surprised. It has given me more confidence to keep trying even when I might not have felt confident in them before. There is so much information around to give tips and tricks that it shouldn’t feel overwhelming. I also found that the mediums I was most cautious of were the ones which turned out the best pieces because I was forced to slow down and really try rather than lean on past experience.

4. Catching up.

One of my main difficulties with sticking to challenges in the past has been failure. That seems like a strange thing to say but I’d push through a week or so, then I’d have a bad day or miss a target and I would slump, unable to figure out how to catch up.

This time round I let myself off. If I missed a day I wouldn’t beat myself up, I’d just figure out what to do the next day, whether I could squeeze in another quick portrait the next day, how they would work together, etc. Knowing how to deal with the setbacks was such a great lesson and it made getting here, to the finishing line all the more enjoyable.

Above are the 30 imperfect pieces of work completed over the last 30 days. They are not the best quality images but as my works-in-progress I’m OK with that. What comes next will be much more important.

30 pieces in 30 days is for me quite an accomplishment. It came out of my dear husband deciding that enough was enough and helping me clear out some desk space specifically for art supplies. I decided I needed to give myself a challenge, some practice, and self portraits seemed like something both easy (because you hardly have to put much effort into looking at your own face) and challenging (because you know it well enough to know when it just doesn’t look right).

Of course, having finished my month I’m now working out: now what?

My first aim is to properly complete three pieces based on favourites of the 30. It may seem a bit strange to be finishing 3 self portraits but it is about truly completing a work. Plus portraits are sold as works of art when the customer has no clue of the model and so self portraits aren’t so unusual. It will also help me slow myself down and really spend some time getting it right. I was so used to pushing out sketchy pieces that I missed the potential for accurate detail, texture, and realism. Hopefully, by completing 3 pieces I can gain some self-determination and control to allow myself to take on bigger projects more successfully in the future.

Once the 3 pieces have been completed (ideally in another month), I will be trying to accomplish another 30 day challenge, again practising technique, mediums, and subject matter to improve my work overall. If I continue on a pattern of 3 finished pieces then I could really start adding to my portfolio.

Subject matter is endless. It has been recommended to me to go for landscapes next, then still life, then human form. With my Masters starting again in September I’ll be rejigging how things work in order to get work done but my aim is to keep art firmly in my life from now on.

My second aim is to start working properly on the illustration projects and websites that have been waiting for me.

My third is maybe to sell some of my work. This could be in the form of commissions, or prints, or anything really, but to properly learn how to be a successful artist is so important to me. I feel as if I’ve been self-sabotaging a large part of that dream for a really long time, simply believing I wasn’t good enough, but I need to try to do my work without trying to catch the latest trends, just by creating great pieces. Hopefully they’ll get better, and will be more and more influenced by the theology I study, and I will get gradually closer to my dream.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Diana says:

    Go you! I like the Mucha, Pop Art and Picasso ones the best. Looks to me like you have a flair for things with a contemporary / design-y edge, and these seem to capture that the best. Hope you have fun with whatever you decide to finish off 🙂

    1. EKMCronin says:

      Thank you very much. Picasso threw me quite a bit as it’s so counter intuitive but I enjoyed the colour. Pop Art and Mucha were indeed fun too, and seems Mucha was popular too – score!

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