This is one of the oddest things I’ve painted. Again, its had about 3 or 4 incarnations so maybe its not destined to look like this for very long.
I’ve always struggled with self portraits – I look so gloomy and sullen, or a grinning idiot, I find it hard to distill my own essence onto the canvas, and also, maybe to come to terms with how I actually look, rather than my impression of myself.
Especially now, not feeling 100% happy with how my face and body have changed over the past couple of years.
I started 2012 looking young for my age, even with a very young baby and the tiredness that brings. Within 6 months I was totally bald and half-destroyed from life saving treatment for acute leukaemia. It was tough – mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting – and now, 2 and a half years later, my experience is etched on my face and body – there are scars from the central lines, grey hairs, and copious amounts of wrinkles, born of worry and abject fear, grief and anger.
So, I am very different, on the inside and the outside, much is lost, never to return, but much too has been found, and indeed gained. In the end, it has simply been part of life, and life shows up on our physical being as much as our spiritual one.
So why did I finish the painting now? Is it something as profound as being proud of what I have survived, and how I carry that achievement in my physical appearance, even at the same time as bemoaning my loos of physical youth? A feeling that I do not need to fear others’ reactions to me, or my work, as what harm can it do? A desire to put stuff out there and see what it looks like when it is no longer hidden?
Or maybe just simply I was ‘tidying up’. I’ve been doing that too – looking at what’s around me, what would be left. I hope its not a premonition, just along overdue spring clean.
And as for the painting itself, do I like it? Not necessarily. There are definitely elements I am pleased with – a few certain brush strokes and colour overlays for example – which leaves me far better disposed to the piece overall. But no, I don’t think its great, but I appreciate its attitude.