I understand that the self portrait is of utmost importance to the artist, but I’ve never done one.
I am one of those people who don’t like to go into salons for hair care, due to the imposed position of staring at oneself, transfixed: a captive audience to self criticism. The notion of combining this agony with my love of painting does not sit with me, no matter the constructive objective. I’d much rather daub in a monkey in my place.
But still, one of my paintings comes pretty close.
It started, as many of my paintings do, with an image that wouldn’t leave my mind. I saw a doll holding an oversize fortune-telling fish, which was broadcasting her impending challenges: change, isolation, transformation. It was a distinct but imperceptible vision, almost like how the sun becomes imprinted on the back of your eye for a while if you stare at it for long enough. I captured it in my art journal so I wouldn’t lose it.
When I was able to put it onto canvas, the scene had grown and become more clear. It grew to include cala lillies, a striped bumblebee, and a landscape littered with symbolism. Not unexpected for me: as I paint, sometimes the development takes on a life of its own, seemingly out of my hands. What did seem odd was, upon completion, how many people — even strangers — remarked that the doll looked like me.
It’s an interesting process: when you paint honestly, your life can bleed into your work. It wasn’t intentional, but there it is. “Soothsaying” is accidentally the closest I’ve come to a self portrait.