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The Artist is a curious being. He or she is often confident and somewhat full of themselves one moment and then lacking in confidence and neurotic the next! Many of us are a paradox of existence, holding in tension within us feelings of awesomeness and worthlessness. Now, I’m not saying that all artists are as mad as the proverbial ‘bag of hares’, but in my experience many of us have a somewhat split personality. On the one hand we want to be bronzed and adored, on the other we want to shrink into a hole and hide.

So the idea of the ‘self portrait’ is often a tortuous one for the artist, (unless you’re Rembrandt of course, and then you can’t stop painting yourself! He painted at least 40 paintings, and 31 etchings of himself in case you’re interested), but for many of us it seems like the height of narcissism.

In reality the self portrait is often done out of necessity, nobody else being prepared to sit for you for a day or two. It is also a great exercise in self evaluation for the artist. If you paint a ‘selfie’, then you invariably ask a lot of questions of yourself as you prepare for it and while you’re painting it too!

For me, I wanted to see how much, if any, progress I’d made since I painted the first self portrait that I painted back in January of 2012. Actually I know in reality I had made progress, because with nearly every successive painting after that one, I learnt something new about the medium or execution of the work. Also, I’d found that picture recently, peering out at me from behind a stack of canvasses like some grotesque gargoyle – I should say at this point how much I appreciate the kindness of everyone who made a positive comment about that painting. It was much appreciated and a great confidence booster! – however, not having anything much to work on at the time, I thought a reprise of the subject might not be such a bad idea.

After endless vain attempts to capture an image I wanted to work from, I finally settled on one that seemed to capture my heroic manliness in all its splendor (that’s sarcasm by the way, well… probably).

The reference shot (there was no way I was going to work from a mirror again) was taken in a mirror, hence the reversed logo on the chest. My boys asked a couple of times if I’d spotted that, which I had… thankfully. Actually it was intentional. For those of you like me, geek enough to know your superman…ology, the reversed superman logo is worn by superman’s negative clone, a villain called ‘bizarro’. So while at first glance the portrait could be taken as the artist wishing he was superman (which of course he does), it also displays his inner struggle with that desire, often feeling more like opposite to that ideal. The fact that the t-shirt is black with a splash of red also gave the portrait an interesting visual edge that I really liked, and yes I do know that the red logo on black is in fact Connor Kent’s logo (Superboy). I explained this once to a relative (who shall remain nameless) to which her reply was, “Super…boy!” (incredulous emphasis on the boy). I have not forgotten, and I’m working on the forgiven too, Mrs. Norton!

What I toyed with adding, was a list of words written across the t-shirt that would sum up the person, positive and negative. The idea being that we are all made up of so many things. Who we are is a mixture of good and bad, positive and negative. It might be interesting to ponder what your own list might be. Mine would include: Husband, father, son, brother, uncle, friend, confident, insecure, considerate, inconsiderate, vain, self-conscious, loved, forgiven, thoughtful, forgetful, at peace, in pain, unresolved, restored, paradox, healed, loved… and you could go on ad-infinitum. We are all so many things, but I guess what we choose to be is more important than what we are by nature, nurture, or circumstance.

I didn’t in the end because a) it wouldn’t have worked with the ‘S’ and b) a picture in some way should tell itself and not need a written commentary… probably.

It’s oil on linen 16″x12″:


Detail below. Many times larger than actual size.