Looking at self portraits

self portraits. Picasso, Kahlo, Boilly, and Rockwell.

Picasso, Kahlo, Boilly, and Rockwell.


I have always admired people who could do self portraits. I think it takes a lot of chutzpah to stare at yourself for hours, unless you’re vain as hell.

When you stare in the mirror for a long time, and try to reproduce your own face on canvas -one brush or pencil stroke at a time- it can get pretty excruciating. do you fight the urge to idealize your face and diminish some of those faults, or do you exaggerate them and turn yourself into a caricature? Once you have finished the portrait will anyone recognize it as you, or will someone mistake your painting for Beyonce or Brad Pitt?

I was looking at the contestants in Jerry’s Artaramia self portrait contest. I wondered what the artists were thinking as they stared into their own eyes. Did they notice every blemish, every part that was too big or too small, too puffy or too saggy? How much did they glamorize themselves? Do they really look like that? Would I recognize them if they passed me on the street?

What the hell can you be thinking as you stare at yourself for hours? do all your childhood memories come back to you? do you get angry, or sad, or amused? Or do you look at your anatomy as a scientist looks at a protozoa?

I liked the idea of looking at the artist’s rendering of his/her own persona. How many times have I seen artwork and had no idea what the artist looked like? Not that I care. So seeing the artist looking back at me intrigued me more than I thought it would. Now I am looking at art by artist, making art of artist. It seems like an endless reverberation: a continual visual loop: a Möbius strip.

There were almost 2000 entries. We were supposed to vote on them. I don’t know if we could vote more than once since I didn’t vote at all. I didn’t think it would be fair. These were excellent artists, and some of the ones that had 5 votes were just as good as the ones who had 100+ votes. Some of the ones who got 100+ votes I didn’t like at all.

Some of the expressions were priceless. I saw pain, trepidation, defiance, and wistfulness. I saw people making fun of themselves. I even saw abuse, trauma and mental illness. Some just said, “Look at me. Aren’t I cute?” Those were fun to look at too.

I didn’t see any cartoonists. Usually my self portrait consists of curly hair, and a pair of glasses very quickly scribbled in black ink. that’s as far as I need to go.

Old Masters according to whom?

When I was in art school we all had to study what many like to call The Old Masters. These consisted of a bunch of dead White guys who thought they were all that. Apparently many of my art school professors thought that too. We had to study their lives, copy their techniques and try to reproduce their paintings in order to be a “real artist.”

Rembrandt as shepherd

Of course it’s fantastic. I just don’t want to paint it.

At least once per week, for several hours at a stretch, I would sit on an uncomfortable stool, surrounded by smelly messy oil paints, smelly messy linseed oil, smelly messy turpentine, and frustrated fellow students, trying to reproduce something some of us had no interest in.

I hated it. That way of mark making was not my forte. It showed. Each time a student or instructor passed by and paused at my canvas I expected, and got a weird comment that was supposed to be funny, or a sigh, or some other wordless noise before they moved on. I also hated oils. I still do. But when I was in school that was THE WAY to learn to create good and proper art.

Those, and my drawing classes made me feel there was something lacking. Where were the Native American “Old Masters?” Where were the Mayans, the Inuits, the Africans, the Egyptians, the Asians? To be fair, there were classes in African and other types of art, but they were focused on culture taught through the art of that civilization. We were never instructed in duplicating this type of art. It was taught from a historical point of view and considered primitive.

I also took classes in comics and graphic novels. But those classes, along with the those in illustration all seemed to radiate from the same roots: the stuffy and rather depressing oil paintings of the so called Old Masters.

When I worked in what was becoming my own style I was told that my art was too “cartoony” and would never be accepted as “real art.”

Now of course much has changed. Artists are honoring many “Old Masters” from the lands I mentioned. They are making beautiful updated art inspired by the ancients who, in my opinion, were just as good and just as important as the Europeans and their salons.

Film: Mining The Unconscious

This is the first of several art and spiritual films I will be telling you about in 2016 and beyond.

I first heard about this film at a Crones Council a few years ago in Santa Fe, NM. It was presented by the producer and director Marcelina Martin.

New Mexico is a spiritual place for me, and to see this film at that conference would have made my day. But I was off attending other workshops so I missed it. I came across it a couple nights ago on a website I frequent called Culture Unplugged.

Marcelina interviews and shows the process of several artists who let Spirit guide them when they make art. Some of the artists say they paint over their work again and again until their muse tells them to stop. The works are gorgeously detailed and involves universal dream symbolism.

I’m glad I finally found the film and had a chance to see it. I’ve included a 5 minute preview for you here. Go to this page to see the film in its entirety.

Art is the joyous expression of the Sacred. ‘Mining The Unconscious’ brings us the stories and revelations of artists as they share their personal journeys into the profound territory of the unconscious in the excavation of their creative gifts. This stunning experience of the transformational and healing power of art immerses the viewer in a river of creativity and a glimpse of the Eternal Image. This meditation with artists who use dreams, symbols, myth, archetypes, and alchemy to weave spirituality and creativity draws the audience into an experience of the artist’s process, a journey into the spiritual aspects of art. The viewer is transported into a world dedicated to joy-a celebration of the beauty of the light upon this Earth.” From the Culture Unplugged site.



and you are . . .

I subscribe to a several newsletters. They include many topics that interest me such as visual art, spiritual awakening, professional writing, art and healing, and lots of other things.

I don’t know about you, but I often get confused as to who is sending me this or that newsletter. Sometimes I subscribe because they offer something for free and I want it. I may have no intention of reading the newsletter and intend to unsubscribe as soon as I get my freebee. Sometimes I am actually interested in the content of the newsletter and want to read what the person has to say.

But as I said, I get several of them and get a bit confused and rather annoyed when the letter reads something like: “Hi, VirginiaLS: it’s me, Joan.” I’m like, “Who the heck is Joan”?

The other day I got this letter in my inbox, which was very interesting because it talked about depression, which I struggle with each and every day. The person apologized for not writing for so long. But I didn’t miss him because I had no idea who he was anyway. The name did not ring a bell. Neither did the long and awkward email address. I read the entire email (something I rarely do) and by the time I got to the end still had no clue who had written it.

The person gave homage and a link to someone who had helped him so I knew who that was, but whoever wrote the newsletter didn’t provide a link to their own website, no slogan or catch phrase to jog my memory, nothing. Well, there was something. A link to a dropbox page.

With a little sleuthing I finally did find the web site of the person who sent the letter. Once it came up I immediately knew who I had been reading about.

I am a visual person so putting your name on a newsletter without a familiar logo or banner leaves me confused and a bit perturbed. I am not good with names.

Now, I don’t produce a newsletter yet so who am I to talk? But those of you who do, please use your logo, or at least a link to your site so those of us who get a bit foggy at times can quickly identify you. Including the name of your business with a link would be most helpful.

Which brings up another point. I can’t understand why some people choose to name their businesses after themselves. I’m sure there is a very good reason. I would have to ask someone why that is done so often. IMHO johnsmith dot com doesn’t tell me a darn thing about who you are and what you do. Johnsmith is not a brand. Something like Rainbow Kitten Arts dot com might jog my memory and give me a clue as to who is writing me.

As I said, it’s just my opinion.