Self-portraits and daily practice
After Inktober I felt the need to keep up some kind of more focused daily practice. I do pretty much always draw or paint something every day, whether just doodles or rough sketches, or fully realised pieces for my portfolio or for a client. But the focus and impetus to stick to a daily practice that comes with Inktober is something I always enjoy but rarely seem to stick to at other times of the year.
So, in November I started doing some self-portraits in gouache in a new sketchbook my sister gave me for my birthday at the end of October. They’re extremely stylised and mostly focus (so far, at least) on aspects of my personality or things I enjoy doing. I’m struggling with working out how to include family and friends without taking away from the idea that these are SELF-portraits. I did manage to squeeze the dog in, so I can probably have them in as an element, but not the focus.
This was the first one, which I didn’t finish, but am actually quite happy with in the end. It should have had lots of pattern on the dress, and probably been surrounded in flowers or something.
This is one of my favourites and I spent a lot of time on it (oh, and it has blue dippen in the background, which might help as I do love my dippens!). I like the grey bits in my hair, I’m holding a cup of tea (or maybe it’s coffee) in a pretty mug, wearing one of my red flowery dresses and beaded necklaces and bracelets, and am sitting in front of my art shelves, which I love and sit beside my desk – they are full of art books and my favourite magazines and some houseplants and art supplies and Giffords Circus programmes and other little pretty bits and bobs. I love just sitting and staring at the shelves sometimes. (Should really make the rest of the house feel like that, too!)
This is me doing a cartwheel. Used to do them all the time when I was younger and then I hurt my wrist one winter after slipping on some ice and couldn’t manage them for years (my wrist would just give way every time I tried that are a handstand) and then I had two years of dizzy spells and numbness. And then I started doing yoga (hmm – haven’t done that for ages and really should!) and my dizzy spells have gone (there’s a post that explains the dizzy spell thing more) and in the summer I had a go at doing cartwheels in the park with Eleanor and a friend and actually managed it. I was sooooooo happy!
This is one of my favourite passtimes – cooking with loud music on and dancing around (and, yes, I do often have a glass of Prosecco at the same time, but it turns out I can also do it with a cup of tea). I have a go-to playlist on Spotify for this, which has a lot of dancy oldies, but also some more recent stuff, though will sometimes just pick a singer or band and put them on shuffle play. I can even enjoy cleaning the kitchen if I put loud music on and dance around while doing it!
This one pretty much speaks for itself. I am political and not at all embarrassed to be so. I am generally pretty vocal about my opinions and particularly about the importance of voting and how integral politics is to our lives. To be fair, I don’t go out marching very much anymore, so this more of a representational illustration. My political engagement seems to fluctuate a fair bit – and I definitely need breaks where I just talk or write about politics, rather than go out canvassing and to meetings constantly. I need to find the right level of engagement for me personally, but it is always there and important to me.
Reading. This was unfinished, as well, though I kind of like how it ended up. I was going to give the books titles and/or flowery spines. And I think the book I’m reading was going to be Anne of Green Gables. And the kokeshi dolls on the shelves were going to have faces and patterns. I love reading and getting lost in a book. I struggle to find the time to fit everything I enjoy doing in and think I tend to have phases where I do loads of reading and cut back on something else (I think at the moment I’m probably swapping reading for a lot of going to meetings or going out with friends – sorry). I don’t really have a specific type of book I read. At the moment I’m reading a light contemporary romance, which is page-turny but also makes me feel guilty for its lack of seriousness (which I know is wrong – it’s fine and healthy to get some escapism) and just finished a Joanna Trollope book (used to read loads of her books when I was at uni – her and Mary Wesley – but haven’t for a long time; it was kind of fun and comforting, but also a little discombobulating mostly for class reasons, I think). I recently finished A Place Called Perfect, which was great and thought-provoking and Rosemary’s now reading it and, I hope, enjoying it. I really enjoyed When the Floods Came recently, which I found on the ‘Quick Choice’ shelves at the library. Before that (I think) was Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, which was brilliant and also very very thought-provoking. I feel like I’m missing some recent reads out – should get back to noting down what I’ve read so I don’t forget!
The last one (so far) is dog walking at night. By the light of the moon. Absolutely love my evening dog walk – it clears the cobwebs away and is good chance for mulling over and digesting what’s happened during the day – or I’ll take the opportunity to phone someone (usually my mum), which can have a similar effect of going over the day.
These are really fun to create, and I’m managing to adjust the time I give to them, according to the time I have available – some days, I might be able to spend a couple of hours and add lots of detail, and others it’s half an hour max and needs to be very quick and loose (that’s harder, somehow, but fun to practice). I’m fascinated at how my hair is changing in the pictures – it’s currently dark brown with wisps of grey and a bit of red brown showing at the ends. Some I’ve drawn with a pencil sketch on the page, some from a pencil sketch in my sketchbook and some just straight on the page. I’m looking forward to continuing these until that particular sketchbook is full.
However, I’ve already struggled with doing them every single day, so bought another sketchbook, in which I’m doing two-page spreads in whatever media I have to hand (and so far, in a limited palette) with a floral on one side and a geometric on the other side. I’m sure I’ve seen a couple of people do this recently, though can’t remember who – sorry! Anyway, it’s a fun idea and let’s me keep drawing florals which are most definitely my ‘go to’ while doing some more geometrics which I enjoy but rarely seem to do. And gives me a doodley and ‘go with the flow’ practice, which I feel I need. I’m picking one or the other at the moment when I come to do my daily art practice. And I’m not minding too much when I miss a day or two – just picking up again and continuing – it’s not a failure, but a little break!
You can follow both my daily practices on Instagram – I’m currently having a Facebook break, which is very refreshing and I think there’s a decent chance I’ll keep that up for longer than my planned two weeks, or at least go back to it with a very different attitude. I might well write a separate introspective post about my Facebook break.
Do you have a daily art practice? Have you tried creating self-portraits and putting your ‘essence’ into them? (I think making one that includes all the important things in your life would be an interesting challenge.) What are your favourite things to do? What are you reading at the moment?