The Original Selfie

 |  January 3, 2022

Last week I celebrated my birthday and my daughter and I decided to spend part of the afternoon drawing with our Prismacolor colored pencils. (Side note: I’ve had this same set of Prismacolors since I was in high school. They’ve always been a beloved possession that has traveled with me all over the country throughout my adult life and now they mostly belong ot my 11 year old daughter.) We pondered what to do draw and decided that we’d try to do self portraits looking into the mirror. She has never done this before and I thought it would be fun to give it a go on my birthday.

The hardest part about creating a self portrait is probably having to stare at your face. Especially on a birthday when you’re feeling like you’re inching closer and closer to the mid century mark! I tend to look at my paintings of trees as my self portraits. But actually looking in a mirror and attempting to draw myself is something else entirely.

I started out with drawing in pencil. I decided to take a photo of it in case I ruined it with my colored pencils.

12.26.21, self portrait, pencil

I took a deep a breath and dove into my bin of colored pencils. After an hour or two, I finished it up. Looking at it now on the screen, there are definitely parts that I need to change. It’s been so long since I’ve done anything with colored pencil. I enjoyed it even when it was exasperating.

12.26.21, self portrait, colored pencil

I probably need to tone down the green a bit. ha!

So I started thinking about past self portraits I have done. And I remembered that I still have one of them and the other I had taken a photo of it, with film, no less!

2005, self portrait, acrylic and collage
1996, self portrait, colored pencil
1993?, self portrait, oil pastels

It’s interesting having a birthday so close to the end of the year when you’re already in that end of the year reflecting mode. Collectively we’re all tired from the past few years, especially the last two. The loss and the grief, personal and collective, of the past two years makes you think all those big life thoughts. Thoughts about what do I want from this life keep crossing my mind. And trying to reframe things in my head and trying not to focus on my regrets (which is my tendency), but rather to think about what I can work towards. Looking at myself with a critical eye. Who is that person staring back at me in the mirror and all the things that have happened since the first portrait done in 1993 until now, almost 30 years later. Who have I been and who am I becoming and who do I want to be?

“People say – and I’m quite willing to believe it – that it’s difficult to know oneself – but it’s not easy to paint oneself either…” -Vincent Van Gogh

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