Saturday, 20th December 2003,
page 2 of 2
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary
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want to draw, but with rain lashing on the studio window I can't
see my usual view of the meadow and I don't want to pick up a still
life object such as a shell or pebble.
As far as I remember this is the first self portrait I've drawn
for seven years. At first I'm not at all keen on my subject: in
the sidelight from the studio window those frown furrows between
my eyes are so conspicuous. I expect they
might look worse because
I'm concentrating on drawing. And I look so heavy around the eyes.
But when I start adding colour I find that I'm enjoying the drawing.
Those details like furrows and bags under the eyes aren't all that
important. A face isn't a collection of such details, cobbled together:
the spaces between, such as the forehead and cheeks, and the underlying
structure are what brings it together.
I get interested in the effect of the light from the studio window.
In fact if I don't finish soon the light will be gone altogether.
This is a good thing; it makes me work more quickly.
My vanity, my concerns about how old I'm looking, fade away as
I draw. In their place are visual problems of light, colour and
structure. I'm able to treat myself as I would one of the 1001 objects
that I habitually draw; to see myself as just a part of the world
- a world of light and colour - and that's reassuring to me; to
think that when all's said and done I am a part of that vibrant
My favourite bits of this drawing are the highlight on the forehead
and the graphic quality of the scratchy lines of my new sepia pen
as seen through an irregular watercolour wash.
Whether this is a good likeness is another matter and probably
not all that important. You have to remember that I'm drawing in
a mirror: like most people I've got an asymmetrical face so the
way I see my face is the mirrored reverse of what you'd see.
Two Advantages of Drawing a Self Portrait
Your model is always available.
There's no danger of the model saying 'That doesn't look like
me: I don't look that old!'
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