My 90s-Fused Self-Portrait
A diatribe from a perfectionist
When I am feeling any sort of intense emotion, positive or negative, or even feeling the most pretentious of ennui, I decide to paint.
For most of my life, my painting and sketches have been portraits. I feel more comfortable creating a face or a body than I do anything else. Lately, I've discovered the wonders of dry-brushing in paint, and have consistently worked towards more abstract work.
However, despite having a full time job, I also want to sell my paintings. The only paintings that I've been successful in selling have been trippy version of pop culture characters or icons, so that has taken over my time. However, I have canvases that are too large to ship without costing me an arm and a leg, so I save those for personal projects.
Painting (and crocheting) is my lifeline. Due to a recent injury, I can no longer just jam to tunes and dance my night away with my blinds shut. No. Now, I must paint. My crochet work often become gifts - but the paintings I make on large canvasses, those are mine. They're personal. They're cathartic.
I also love needlepoint and embroidery work, but there's something about sketches and paintings that brings me to a place I can't otherwise access. When I sketch, or paint, I'll have an idea in my head.
I've been doing both since I was a child, so I've become comfortable with the fact that the idea in my head will not directly translate onto paper or the canvas. I find freedom in this. As a strong-headed businesswoman, this is the one place where I can let go. I don't know what will be the finished image on my canvas, and that thrills me. I look forward to seeing what manifests through paint, pastels, or graphite. The assertive control-freak that reigns the rest of my personality takes a nap while I embrace the freedom, chaos, and uncertainty of what will become present in my art.
I decided to try a self-portrait again. My last one reminded me of myself in my twenties. It was a woman surrounded by flames. This time, I wanted to portray who I am at the present - a woman fragmented, but put back together much like Dionysus. I know that sounds pretentious. Maybe it is. I just don't care. I don't care, because it's honest.
So the portrait you see in my header is the latest of my self-portraits. I took inspiration from Basquiat and the art of the nineties, which is when I came of age. It's not perfect. One eye is much too far from the other. The motif of the rising sun, to represent my heritage, is almost indiscernible. However, when I sealed the painting and looked at it, I saw chaos. I saw broken pieces put painstakingly back together in a new form. It was me. She was not who I expected to see. She is nothing like what I envisioned in my mind. When I was painting her, I forgot about my stress. My life. My job. My divorce. My fraught relationships. It was just myself, and the canvas. As it always is.
Those moments of zen-like nothingness are what bring me to sketch and paint. When I crochet or do needlework, I'm too busy counting. But when it is just myself, the canvas, my years of accumulated favorite brushes, and my many collections of acrylic paints, during that time, I taste true freedom. The woman you see in the portrait above is a woman outside of time, but not in a Vonnegut way. It is a woman that time means nothing to. She is who I am at this very moment, or at least at the moment I painted her. I'm continuing on with another attempt at a self-portrait, but for now, the painting you see is the woman I am. She is broken, put back together, and at peace outside of the noise of daily life.