On Friday we had our self-portrait critique and I really thought it was just such a great, fantastic critique. So many commonalities in our experiences; I think for all of us (and we talked about this), this was really the project where we drew on each other’s work and leaned on each other for advice and encouragement and I think it’s so important that we did this at the end of the semester–I, at least, was not nearly so comfortable with other people in January, and this is all ignoring how what we’ve (or, well, I’ve–I’m not sure what it was like for people with more experience) learned all culminated in this project. So rewarding! I really enjoyed learning that from the critique, and I also really liked how we had the time to go through each person’s work, find out what they thought was weak, and react to it. It’s so interesting to see how some people (including myself!) can be completely off-track with what’s wrong; I know in my case, it was a relatively minor error that I had focused on to the exclusion of all else, so I didn’t notice the larger, more significant mistakes. For example, Polly said she didn’t care for how the area under her eyes:
But I actually thought that part was especially well done; since the rest of her face is relatively pale, I think the shading under the eyes works really, really well. I also thought it was fascinating to see the different techniques; I knew that I had ended up going much, much blurrier than others, but I thought this sort of dappled effect that Elle did was amazing:
It really looks like the light is just gliding across her face, and I think it looks beautiful. I also want to talk a little bit about whose portraits I looked at for help, because I think that was such a crucial and valuable part of this experience. To start with, I looked at Kirstein’s hair for inspiration, for a few reasons. One, I’ve been sitting near/across from Kirstein for a while now, and I really, really like what she creates. Two, most other people didn’t even have room for hair, and those that did (when I was looking) had light hair. What I was particularly struggling with was the fact that the light didn’t hit the hair on one side of my head at all and since my hair is black, I didn’t know how to depict that. So I looked at Kirstein’s work and asked her about it:
and she explained to me that she had drawn very, very subtle highlights and I took my cues from that; my end result wasn’t nearly as delicate as hers, but the advice as invaluable. Going back to the critique, Kirstein said that she didn’t like her eyes and I disagreed with that as well, I think her eyes are phenomenal; so arresting, and absolutely what they look like in real life.
Talking of hair-related things, I also struggled with my eyebrows, due to shape (which I eventually figured out) and the light patterns. And, again, I looked to others for inspiration, particularly Ellen:
And, again,ridiculously helpful; I didn’t mimic the shading so much, simply because her hair is a lot lighter, but I found observing the ‘brushstrokes’ she made to be really, really useful.
I also want to talk about Phoebe’s, because it is in many ways the antithesis of mine:
As I have blogged about extensively, I have (well, had, I got better towards the end) very little confidence in myself in this class and this always manifests itself in the size of work; i.e., very small. So the fact that Phoebe had the bravery to go all-out and create such a massive piece is really impressive to me. And it is exquisitely rendered. I love it.
To go back to the critique; pretty much the moment we sat down I realized that my neck was all wrong; I’d done it the morning of critique-day and that was obviously a mistake because I’m fairly certain that if I had given myself more time to think about it I could have fixed it (and I think I will almost certainly do so when I finish my last final). My concern with my portrait was the left side of my face, because I thought that eye was askew; no one else seemed to think so, but it still looks off to me! Nell pointed out that what was askew was my face getting wider towards the bottom; I think this is a result of my overdoing my sideburns (yes, I have sideburns. At least they’re not muttonchops.) and again, I will try to correct it if I have time after my last final.
This won’t be my last post, as I still have to get up my off-campus gallery visit, but since it will be my last reflective-type post…this is the single most terrifying class I have ever taken. At the risk of sounding very vain, I am usually an intelligent person; in the classes I’ve taken that are required for my other major (Ancient Greek and Latin), I am usually considered someone who knows what she’s doing and who has all the answers. And I was so, so scared of coming into a class where not only would I not be anywhere near the top, but I wouldn’t be able to even get to the top, because I had convinced myself that any artistic talent would be in-born and I just didn’t have it. And I wasn’t completely wrong; there are so many incredibly talented people here and I will never be a great artist. But even though I have been intimidated by my classmates, I have also learned so, so much from them and even though I will never create anything strikingly original, unique, or breathtaking, I can at least create something passable–which sounds weak, but it’s so much more than I ever thought I would accomplish. So yes, this has been the most terrifying class, but it has also absolutely been the most rewarding; at one point I seriously considered not majoring in Art History because I would have to take this class and I am so, so glad I didn’t make that decision!