Artists always reflect themselves in their paintings if not in
self-portraits, then in the mood and colour schemes of their work.
Self-portraiture has existed at least since the ancient Egyptians, when
a few artists in the middle of the second millennium BC were sculpting
narrative reliefs on tomb walls and adding their self-portraits to the
carvings, some of which were later painted. Much later, Roman artists
were painting portraits on to wood panels, canvas and walls. Although no
identifiable self-portraits remain, undoubtedly some were painted.
A self-portrait in watercolour
During the European Dark Ages, the light of culture was shining
bright in the East. In China Wang a calligrapher is documented as having
painted his portrait with the aid of a mirror. But secular paintings
were frequently destroyed by succeeding dynasties and unfortunately this
self portrait no longer exists. However later self-portraits exist, many
of them painted in water colour and ink on silk. In England, there were
no great English-born portrait painters until the 1740s.
Among the Expressionists self-portraiture was the ideal medium for
their painting philosophy.
For artists, the attraction of the self-portrait include the fact
that it enables them to paint from life without hiring a model or being
limited by time other than their own. Self-portraiture is also the best
way of learning how to depict the human face, and in a range of media
and styles. Self-portraits could be done in any medium and the artist
should be honest in his or her vision. Only by being objective will you
understand how to depict yourself. This will also enable you, later, to
paint the portraits of other people convincingly. Self-portraits could
be painted in any medium.
Ink and wash
There is a large variety of links in on the market from Sepia to
coloured, ink, from water-proof Indian ink to water soluble inks, and
they vary from brand to brand. Some inks, for example, are not colourful
and some can be diluted with water more easily than others.
So it is worth your while to try out several kinds before making your
final choice. You can use a wide range of implements to apply ink a
brush, a mapping pen or dip pen or a knife or a palette knife. With a
brush you can create a line or a wash, whereas most other tools produce
only a line.
Try out different kinds of paper, too, because the surface of the
paper directly affects the kind of line you will get. If you are using a
watercolour paper, especially a rough one, the nib of a pen will scratch
and drag on the paper so that you do not get a fluid line. A not-pressed
or smooth paper is therefore, better with a pen. However, if you are
using a brush, you can draw on a rough paper, dragging the brush across
it. First, practice your strokes on the edge of your paper, because once
you have committed a mark on the paper, it is difficult to remove. You
can use masking fluid to touch out mistakes, but this tends to spoil the
spontaneity of the medium.
To make easier to avoid mistakes, some people like to sketch a
drawing on the paper first. Pen and ink can be combined with many other
media; you could cover the surface of your paper with chalk, for example
and then draw on it with pen and ink, or you could make a pen and ink
drawing and then apply a wash or series of washes over it.
Using pencil, crayon and charcoal
Point media, or pencils, crayons, are charcoal, are attractive to
work with, partly because of the multitude of colours and tones
available, but also because they have great variety of strength.
In pencils you have a range from the delicacy of a draftsman's pencil
to the heaviness of 6B.
A fine, hard pencil will ripple and jump over a heavily textured
surface but will produce a fine line on a smooth paper. You have to
choose both pencil and paper according to the end result you want to
achieve. There are various drawing paper to give different effects and
techniques in pencil drawing as well as crayon. Working on cartridge
drawing paper, the flow of the pencil and the broadness will show the
effects of shading without much effort. Any drawing done on sketch book
paper using a 2 B pencil gives a pattern and texture of the whole
To strengthen its strokes perhaps it would be necessary to use a 4 B
or a 6B pencil. Charcoal and Crayon come in great big thick pieces or
fine sticks. Crayon can be hard or soft and waxy, and some are even
The fluidity and the best results of your drawing will depend on the
paper you use. Manipulating light and understanding colour are
important. The strength of colour gives the painting secret quality.
Self-portrait in water colour
It is really only in the past 150 years or so that watercolour has
come to be regarded as an art from its own right. Water-colour come in
pans, half-pans, tubes, and boxes. If you want good results, don't use
cheap paints. Students-grade pigments may be less expensive than
artist's quality paint, but inferiority shows. You also need to select
your brushes and paper quite carefully. There are so many ways of
treating watercolour. It can be made to look detailed and tight, or
loose, it can be built up in washes. A self-portrait is an exercise in
using your eyes with detachment. It's an interesting exercise to paint a
self-portrait at regular intervals, since one's own appearance is often
unexpected. A self-portrait invites you to be ruthlessly honest, even
though the process is slightly painful.
When you're getting ready to paint a portrait, think of the view you
want to present. Consider the lighting too - whether to have one or more
sources of light, and how to direct them because your head and face will
either be enhanced by the different ways the light strikes them or be
hidden by the shadow it creates. You should have all your brushes and
materials, and enough clean water, close at hand so that you have to
move as little as possible from your position. When setting yourself up
to paint a self-portrait, think of how you want to compose the picture.
Often this can be suggested by your position in relation to the mirror,
or by the shape of the mirror itself.