The Emerging Self: Painting 1a’s Monochromatic Self-Portraits

Before the end of the school year, students in the Painting 1a class completed a monochromatic self-portrait project. Generating a self-portrait is hard work, as the experience connects deeply to one’s identity and how the artists see themselves in the world.

To begin, the artists in both sections looked at self-portraits from Andy Warhol, Lucien Freud, Jenny Saville, Chuck Close, David Hockney and many more. As they worked on the project, they thought about questions such as, “How do I see myself in the world?” and “What parts of me do I want to convey to my audience?” Working with acrylic paint on gessoed watercolor paper, students spent hours building up layers, editing areas, stepping back in reflective process and adding details using a range of brushes. Their palette was limited to the tints and shades of one chosen base color.

Students realized skin tone and blending is challenging, capturing the texture of hair is complex, and making choices about color, space, and personal characteristics takes a lot of thinking. Even so, during the final critique, many of the artists were excited about the successes that surfaced along the way. When looking at the works, it’s especially interesting to see all of the different personalities that emerge through their self-portraits. Nice work, artists!

– Ascha Drake, Visual Arts Faculty

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