June 25, 2006


I've just heard that my sister Annie has been taken ill in Paris so I am going to see if I can get a Eurostar ticket for tonight. Don't know how long I'll be gone. Please send good thoughts and positive vibrations our way. Thanks for being here.


June 24, 2006


I'll get back to the autobio etc. as soon as I can drag myself away from this obsession with challenging the masters to visual duels. Not long now until this marathon ends. I hope you've all been to see Sparky's gallery of the many fascinating entries and if you haven't participated yet, start running. If you post a self portrait to your blog, don't forget to let him know so he can include you in the list.

June 22, 2006


Evil twins?

Changing the subject, nothing to do with portraits or Picasso (but remember his Guernica?) everybody should see this. Is the truth more terrible than the fact? Thanks to Diva Jood for the link.

June 21, 2006


I cheated with this one because Mondrian would most certainly not have included photos in his meticulous and austere compositions in which the absence of subject matter was essential to the work - a mind completely cleared of clutter. But let's face it, my mind is not cleared of clutter. So I've done an ersatz Mondrian, with clutter included  - me, plus towels reflected in the bathroom mirror. A bonus is that this is the only side-view you'll ever get of my big proboscis - ie schnozzola. If you ever wondered where Augustine's profile comes from, now you know.

June 20, 2006


He doesn't approve, obviously.

June 18, 2006 


No, I didn't steal a painting from Howard Hodgkin to incorporate in my self portrait like I did with Van Gogh. The little painting below is entirely my own although I borrowed Hodgkin's style for a minute. It's a small watercolour I did in a sketchbook when I got home from another Hodgkin exhibition a few years back. Again I broke my self-imposed rule by scanning it just now and then digitally adding my eye to it - a cliché that Hodgkin would never use. I am generally not humble before any artists better than I am (that's quite a few) but I have to admit to eating a certain amount of humble pie in front of Sir Howard's work.

I went to Tate Britain yesterday to see his retrospective, beautifully hung on walls painted a mottled brownish ochre, recalling the Indian continent he has been so inspired by. A coffee-bar has been set up just outside the entrance to the exhibition and afterwards I sat there munching a humble apricot danish, listening to the monotone of Hodgkin's voice coming from a continuously playing video on the wall. I thought about how the posh, unvarying upper class intonation was at odds with his painfully, violently sensitive temperament, more attuned to hot-blooded cultures than to his Anglo-Saxon background. In painting, but not in person, Hodgkin is a man who talks with his hands, not so much out of enthusiasm as out of longing, tension and the anguish of trying to capture the essence of an experience without describing it literally. It's not spontaneous art but highly sophisticated, informed by art history as much as by emotion. He has said (and is fed up with being endlessly quoted):

"I am a representational painter, but not a painter of appearances. I paint representational pictures of emotional situations."

He doesn't always succeed but when he does, the results are stunning. He does what is forbidden in certain art critical circles - he talks to you. He engages you on a visceral level, reminding you of something you can't quite put your finger on but which you recognise because you've been there. But it's never that chest-beating "I'm-such-an-interesting-character-even-my-shit-is valuable" pose. He's telling complex stories about moments in his life, discarding the narrative but extracting the mood, the atmosphere, the light, the passion. People who don't respond to abstract art respond to his art. To his critics, this is proof that he's not the real thing. Pshaw I say to them, and pshaw again: he is the real thing.

I have to add that I didn't care much for his most recent work, there was a déja vu weariness about it as though he wasn't living intense experiences anymore, those that are fuel for his best paintings. I know the feeling. But I wouldn't be surprised if he has a renascence and comes up with something nobody expects or has seen before.

June 16, 2006


Thought I might try competing with some of the masters but it was too much like hard work. This may be one idea that's best left in the box. (The one on the right is the real thing, not my copy).

June 15, 2006


Watching an interview with Howard Hodgkin last night on BBC2, I thought how I wish I could emulate his economy of words and of means. He hardly spoke at all so they had to fill up the blanks with other people talking about him and picturesque shots of local colour in India. I like some of his work better than that of almost any other artist working today and will be off to Tate Britain pronto to see his retrospective which has just opened. I'll report on it afterwards. Meanwhile, another attempt to break through the barriers of self-portraiture.

Note to everyone who thinks the self portraits in this marathon have to be done digitally: they don't! And even if you think you can't draw (not true) you can take a self-photo or do a collage or...use your imagination. But do it. You won't be sorry. The list of participants over at Sparky's picture gallery is growing by the minute and all are interesting.

June 13, 2006

SELF 6 and a quarter

Oops. I said I wasn't going to use any photos. Broke my resolutions, as usual.

Me in mirror today

June 12, 2006

SELF 4 and 5

The marathon is in full swing now and Wally/Sparky has created a picture gallery to display all the entries. If you haven't joined yet what are you waiting for? It only lasts a month, the medium can be as simple or as complex as you choose and if you don't have facilities for posting images, Sparky offers to post them for you.

All my portraits for this exercise are done digitally. No real pencils, brushes, paper, canvas, photos or scanners were used. Only a mirror, a Wacom tablet and the artists materials to be found in Photoshop.

June 11, 2006


While most of the planet is staring at millionaires in shorts kicking a ball around, some of us are staring at ourselves in the mirror. Fun is in the eyes of the beholder. If your idea of fun is a self portrait marathon, go and check out all the entries so far: the list of participants is at Sparky's blog. Though I can't tell one end of a football from another, I did watch Paraguay VS England for sentimental reasons. I wanted Paraguay to win, of course. How could I not? My Mickey Mouse lies buried there and my happy childhood lies forgotten there. The thing about football is that the exciting bit, the goal, only lasts a couple of seconds (not unlike sex). The rest of the time men with ever-changing hair-styles are running, stopping and falling down. Okay, I admit I'm not attuned to the joy of footie. A bit of the other, however, is fine.

I look more like this than No.1 and No.2 but it's still not me. Can't stop now.


June 8, 2006


Inspired by seeing an excellent recent digital self-portrait by that versatile and Sparky Donatello (aka crackskullbob) I suggested that we have a self-portrait competition and he said "You're on" and is now organising the parameters - you are, aren't you, Wally? While waiting, I've gone ahead and done my first digital offering in this as yet unmetered excercise and am aiming to turn them out like hotcakes over the next...whatever time-limit is decided.

Everyone: please join in and post self portraits on your blogs and tell us when and where you've done it. Ask Sparky for the rules, if any.

If you think it's unflattering, believe me, the real thing is even more unflattering. Why is it that time punishes us by making our features turn into the worse bits of our ancestors? With a little effort it could have given us the best bits, couldn't it? In order to obey my self-imposed rule that I will use only digital means (ie Wacom tablet and Photoshop) to create these mistresspieces, I set up a mirror next to my Mac so I could look and draw onscreen at the same time. Talk about masochism. That creature in the mirror is not me. It's one of those alien pods that come from another planet and take over your body while you're asleep. No wonder my portrait looks anxious. I'm not asking for beauty, only to be able to recognise myself. But all is not lost because today, in an email, my blogging friend, the beautiful Jean (this too), who has actually seen me in the unsatisfactory flesh, described me thus (thank you forever, Jean):

"... strong, austere, vivid face...utterly and contradictorily suffused with softness and gentleness - a beguiling combination, not evident in photos, maybe not in the mirror either..."