The portrait we paint of others

Earlier today I “finished” yet another self-portrait after a couple of hours of desperation, a multitude of color changes, emotional expressions and miserable I-shouldn’t-have-tried-a-self-portrait-again‘s. In hues of purple, yellow and red, a darkly shaded face that undeniably bear a resemblance to the intended subject stares from the canvas.

After almost 20 years of “hobby-esque” artistic ambition, self-portraits still remains the one thing I still never really feel satisfied with. Often I make myself too pretty – aware, I still continue and I hate the results, feeling like I betrayed myself. Occasionally I aim for brutal honesty, really emphasis the features that are “wrong”. Not wanting to acknowledge that that might actually be what I look like, these results are also mostly rejected. 

I have tried capturing myself happy, sad, angry, indifferent, yet neither captures me fully for I am every feeling all at once. I have tried different colors and mediums: charcoal, pencils, yellow, blue, in acrylics, in water colors, in oil. Painted myself in full body, a multitude of only-face pictures, placed in scenery, bathed in flowers, next to other people, realistic or “modern”. Most of these lie unfinished all over my history. 

Regardless, I am never really satisfied. Maybe it is the critic as artist or maybe I do not know what I actually look like. After all, who sees themselves as they really are? The mirrored image – the most common way we see ourselves (maybe this needs revision in the time of the “selfie”) is only a reflection – mirrored to add to it. Photos captures only one moment, videos are rare and often we alter our behavior and “look”  in front of a camera. 

Looking at ourselves our brains rectify the asymmetry that only the most boringly beautiful people lack, deluding ourselves to be “prettier” than we are. Yet in contrast: in same way that we are the sum of our experiences, our view of ourselves correspond to the way others have treated us. Leaving our self-image a canvas with scribbles from the hands of others. Society, especially such a shallow, superficial one we live in, equip us all with a paintbrush to make judgement on others based on current ideals, and a pair of scissors to alter our own self-image after the influences from others. Criticizing being easier than remaining silent and remaining silent being easier than complimenting, seems to be the system by which we live.  

Taking a second look at the self-portrait, it is not so bad. I managed to make myself too pretty and capturing some of my “flaws” all at the same time. Of course it does not really look like me, yet it does not look like anyone else either. Not quite satisfied, I am at least content. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *