I’m struggling with self-portraits. The root of the problem seems to be that I don’t actually ‘see’ myself – the curve of my eyebrow looks nondescript, my mouth is generic, my eyes seem to shape-shift. Careful pencil drawings haven’t given me results that ring true so I decided to try making loose, quick ink sketches. I thought this might help me find a more intuitive way of seeing and allow me to capture some inkling of myself. The results:
Maybe in some future years, after I’ve put in more hours, dug deeper, learned to see better, this approach will work, but for now, it still doesn’t bring me any closer to making a self-portrait. And there might be another lesson here, one that has more to do with not always being in the background and half-hidden. Maybe in order to see myself, I have to want to be seen!
My daughter was looking at daily sketches I’d done over the past few months and said, “You see the world in a dark way.”
“Really?” I asked. Her observation came as a surprise.
I saw the worn clothes and bundled possessions of the woman in this sketch. But what I was most struck by was her pleasure. She was lost in the moment with her ice cream, her eyes half closed. It seemed she was letting the world disappear for a while, allowing her surroundings – a deserted strip of storefronts by the transit terminal – to soften and fade. What I saw was her pleasure, what I imagined was her as a child, what I felt was a little hope. Because she was having a moment of grace in what was obviously a difficult time in her life.