Tag Archives for " self-portraits "

Drawing Faces and Portraits

Faces and portraits are hard to do. At least, I find them so.

But, sketching/drawing/painting faces is something that I have always been fascinated with, even though I have no aspirations to become a portrait artist. That's why some time last year, I took on the 101 Faces project.

The drawings and paintings I did for the project were stylized faces, though, for the most part. So, even though I've learnt a few things doing those faces, I know that my skill level in this department is still not at a level where I am pleased with.

That's the reason that I still don't do faces on a regular basis in my sketching or painting practice. 99% of the time, I'm just not happy with the results. So, to avoid feeling discouraged, I avoid doing them too.

Big mistake.

You see, some things that I have learnt as I got better at sketching more regularly are:

1. It's good to challenge yourself to draw subjects that scare you.

Maybe not all the time, to the point that you get completely overwhelmed. But, definitely often enough to surprise you and to make you see that you can do more than what you think you are capable of.

There were many times I took on a sketching challenge thinking: "Why on earth did I do this?" And, by the end of it, amazed myself with the outcome.

2. The more you do something, the more you will learn something in the process. And the more you learn, the better you will be at doing it.

It's like that old adage, "Practice makes perfect." Except, I have long discarded the idea of reaching 'perfection'. As Salvador Dali pointed out, it's just not going to happen. And, I'm okay with that. 🙂

3. It's okay not to get an exact likeness. Just draw/sketch/paint what you see, feel, and experience - and give it your own flavour.

With these in mind, I started playing around with the idea of trying to include faces in my daily sketching practice.

Earlier this month, I was ending up with sketches like these (based on a photograph of an actor):

Daniel Di Tomasso Sketch

Not quite Killian from Witches of East End.

So, so unhappy with them. That's why I still couldn't bring myself to do them everyday. However, I kept on trying every couple of days or so. Just looking at faces and sketching them. Usually, in loose sheets of paper instead of my sketchbook because I wanted the freedom to be able to throw the sketches away. Haven't thrown any of them out yet, but if you follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/Flickr, you'll know that I tend not to share these sketches there. Not at the moment anyway.

In any case, even though I am not into 'fan art', I started sketching photos of actors because my earlier attempts of trying to sketch people I know were frustrating me so badly. I figured, at least, if I sketched actors, no one would mind if I didn't get the likeness. Unless the actor saw them, perhaps. But, what are the chances, right? 🙂 I especially like doing them while they're in 'character'.

So, after a couple of weeks of trying to sketch faces every few days, that face above became this:

Daniel Di Tomasso sketch

Another attempt at sketching Daniel Di Tomasso. Maybe channeling Felix Scheinberger - with not much luck. 🙂

Still not great, but there was something about it that I liked. And, I have always told myself that that's all I want from learning to draw or sketch faces. I'm not aiming for Portraiture Prize standards. Just something that would make me happy when I finish the sketch.

And, last week, I had a breakthrough and ended up with this sketch:

Santiago Cabrera's Aramis from the Musketeers

Finally. A sketch that made me feel like I CAN draw a face that looks vaguely human and not some strange life form.

Not sure if you can tell who it is or which TV show it's from. But, he's definitely one of my faves in one of the TV shows I love right now. That is why I was so excited to see this sketch take shape. It's still not 100% likeness, I know, but it was the first time that I actually didn't feel like I failed big time at drawing faces.

I wish I can tell you that I have become much better at drawing faces since then and that I no longer produce dud sketches of faces. Happily ever after.

But, I would be lying.

I still have many many more misses than hits with this face sketching thing. Like this very strange self-portrait sketch that I did today (based on looking at a mirror):

Self Portrait in Colour Pencil

Mirror self-portrait in colour pencil. Though I seriously don't know who this person is. 🙂

Doesn't quite look like me, yes?

The difference? I feel like I am finally slowly making peace with drawing faces and I am definitely learning way more as I draw/sketch more of them.

That's why I told myself that even though I may not always like what I see at the end of each face-sketching session, I will be kind to my creative self and not despair. Just keep on going and hope that I will have many more times where I'd end up feeling happy and amazed with my sketches.

And so, today, I am committing to a daily face sketch for my August Daily Week-long Challenge of the Month. Hopefully, in a few weeks' or a few months' time, I will be able to share my sketches of faces/portraits with a lot more excitement.

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Exploring The Art of Selfies For A Week

Selfies seem to get such a bad rep these days.The equation often seems to be: The more selfies you take = The more vain you are.

Goodness knows how many blog posts and articles I've read that mock selfies and the people who take them. I've never really tried to defend the whole selfie movement, even though I've started taking selfies even before the word 'selfie' was officially a 'thing'.

Well, okay, not quite as far back as Colin Powell's vintage selfie, but definitely long before Ellen De Generes' celebrity-packed Twitter-breaking selfie. Late 2007/early 2008, to be precise. When I got my first DSLR and decided that the best way to learn photography was to take photos of my most available model - myself.

The thing is, none of us smartphone-wielding/DSLR-snapping folk really invented this selfie thing. Two of the artists I admire a lot have used self portraiture to explore their art - Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh. And, I know that they're not the only artists who have ventured into selfie territory to express themselves.

Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh "Selfies"

Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh "Selfies"

"But, but, but... That's different! That's art!" Some of you might say.

Indeed. But then, whenever we take photos - whatever the subject might be: our cat, our lunch, our kids, or ourselves - it is a form of art. Perhaps, not Art with a capital A... You know, those types of Art that belong in museums and galleries.  But, they are OUR art. And, just like any art form - it's the creation that matters. If others appreciate the art, great. If not, they can move on.

In this age of social media, it's an important skill that we need to master: The ability to look at content and appreciate those that resonate with us, and move past those that don't without driving us crazy. And since we can't control what other people share, we have to learn how to control our own reactions to what other people post on their social networks.

But, I digress.

The whole point of this post, really, is to welcome you to a new Daily Week-long Challenge of the Month. And, as you probably can tell, I'm dedicating the month of April to "Selfies".

I haven't taken a lot of selfies lately, as I haven't really been inspired to do so. Especially since I've given up doing 365s and other self-portraiture challenges. Sometimes, I'd take a selfie, just to remember a moment or an outfit. But, nothing like I've done in  my early selfie days - where I set-up an idea and work with a concept or a technical challenge in photography.

Since April is my 'birth month' - and I'm celebrating a big milestone this year (yes, the dreaded big 4-0!) - I thought doing a daily selfie challenge during my 'birthday week' (1st April to 7th April) is a good way to mark the last days of my 39th year and the first days of a new decade of my life.

But, I don't want these selfies just to be any 'vanity selfie'. I don't want them to be just about showing or depicting glamour or beauty. Though, hopefully, some of them would show something beautiful. My goal is to find the art in the selfie again - in a Kahlo-esque/Van Gogh-esque style. But, with MY stamp, MY approach, of course. Most of these selfies would likely be in the form of digital photography, due to ease and speed. But, if I get the opportunity, I'd love to explore the idea of painting/drawing or doing another mixed media selfies too (like this).

In any case, I'll be posting my attempts via the usual social networks, and hope to do a round-up post later some time. I hope you'll join me!

365 Days - Day 1 - 1st Jan 08

My first "official" selfie, taken 1 January 2008, for my very first attempt at 365 Days challenge. It was "Explored" on Flickr.



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Style Studio: Life Tones (April 2010 Edition)

Style Studio: April 2010

Things are going to be even more crazy hectic on my side of the sky in the next few weeks, so I'm going to try and blog Studio Notes' "regular features" as quickly as I can before the month is over. So, here's my monthly Style Studio/self-portrait installment. Since I've been posting dresses a lot lately, I thought I'd go simple and casual again this month...

Style Notes:

  • Brown, long tube top - Not sure where I bought this from now. It's a few years old. In fact, I'm pretty certain I've posted this somewhere on this blog before.
  • Wide, twisted tan belt - From Target. I love it. This belt reminds me that belts can really make good fashion accessories.
  • HerBench Blue Jeans - My favourite hand-me-down jeans form my sis. You've seen this often enough in my style files! 🙂
  • Earrings - Black giant dangling tear drop earrings.

As you can see, this is just a simple summer/spring attire. Oh, and yes, there are no shoes in the photo shoot, but I believe I used both my black wedge shoes and my flat brown shoes with the whole thing (alternates, of course, not at the same time! ;-)).

Where To: Filming/Interview for my digital storytelling workshop class.

Photography Notes:

  • Camera: Trusty old Nikon D40x
  • Lens: My beloved Sigma 30mm f1.4
  • Time: AM
  • Light: Natural light, no flash
  • Self-portrait technique: remote control
  • Post processing: Only used Picasa to create the collage, then I adjusted the light + used B&W focus effect

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Style Studio: A Smile for Spring!

It’s the people who make you smile that matter most.
Who cares about those who try to wipe them away?
Just keep smiling anyway

Studio Style: Smile for Spring!

It’s amazing how different emails can make you feel different things within a matter of minutes. Recently, I’ve had the strange experience of receiving a series of emails from different people under varying circumstances that had contrasting effects to my emotions.

The first lot of emails made me seethe and weep. The other lot of emails made me smile. Even laugh out loud. Feel excited.

All the emails were coming within minutes of each other.

If anyone was watching me at the time, they’d probably think the computer has driven me insane. (Not hard to imagine, right? ;-))

As my conflicting emotions from these emails tried to battle inside me, I made the choice not to let the smile-erasing emails win. Go the smile-inducing emails, I say.

Not an easy thing to do for me, mind you. Normally, negative emotions overtake whatever positive emotions that I might have. I think it’s because our psyche has the tendency to feel the impact of negative emotions more. That's why a nasty comment or a single episode with someone difficult can ruin an otherwise perfect time with great weather or wonderful company.

It’s not right, though. I think we ought to try to strengthen the effect of those smile-inducing moments and people in our lives more. And, give less power to the smile-wipers. I think that’s a lesson I’m trying to learn as I take the path of Blissology.

Anyway, enough of that… here are the style and photography notes from this shoot:

Style Notes:

Very, very casual look here, as you can see. It was the beginning of warmer weather this day, I believe. We’ve had such a long winter this year that finally getting 23+ degree (C) weather is such a relief. To celebrate, I wore my ‘Smiley’ shirt (it has a glittery gold smiley face design with the word ‘Smile’ underneath). I think this must’ve been the first time I wore a shirt in months (without layers, that is). The label says “Jack Pot. I believe this was a gift from my mum and/or sis. Also, I was wearing one of my fave jeans (a hand-me-down from my sis), which I believe is from Bench. Although I wasn’t wearing shoes in these pics, I actually wore my favourite Wittner shoes from this shoot when I went out this day.

Where To: Off to attend a graduate school seminar at the Uni.

Photography Notes:

  • Camera: Nikon D40x
  • Lens: Sigma 30mm f1.4
  • Lighting: Natural light, morning (around 9am)
  • Self-portrait strategy: Remote control! Also used a tripod.
  • Post-processing: Some iPhoto tweaks. The collage was created using Picasa.

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Style Studio: Red Hot (and Black!)

Style Studio: Red Hot (& Black) collage

Well, I've been meaning to share a full "Style Studio"/"Look of the Week" post for some time now. So, here's one that I took early this month. And, as always, here are my style and photography notes from the series -

Style Notes:

  • Long-sleeved fitted grey shirt - From Supré; Got it on sale a few weeks ago. Loved the fit so much, I ended up buying in one light blue as well.
  • Black velvet jacket - This one's a really old piece of clothing. I don't even know where I bought it. I think I was still living in Singapore when I purchased it. It used to be part of a two-piece suit (jacket + pencil skirt). However, I've stopped using the skirt.
  • Printed dress - The label says "Ms Who?" It's one of those dresses that I bought from a children's clothes shop. Got it for about AU$10. The thing is, I keep wondering when I'd bump in to a ten year old wearing the same thing. Heh.
  • Black loop belt - Another hand-me-down from my sis.
  • Black stockings
  • Wittner stiletto booties - One of the few stiletto shoes I own. I love the shape, but for some reason, I haven't really taken to wearing them. Haven't broken them in yet properly, so they're still a bit uncomfortable. But, I must say, looking at these photos, I am beginning to get convinced why stilettos may be a good way to go.

Where To: Off to my part-time work as part of the Resource Team in an organisation that support people with intellectual disabilities.

Photography Notes:

I must confess that I felt quite happy with this series of self-portraits. They're not technically great photos, but I like them anyway. Something about the lighting and the composition really appealed to me.

I especially like the top photo in the collage. It was sort of an accidental shot, as I was actually trying to use the fireplace area as my backdrop. But, I couldn't quite get "the shot". You know, that one photo that help me to tell what I want to say in pictures.

When I moved to a different wall to try some extra shots, I found that the floor lamp lighting in that area created a different visual effect in the shots. That's why I ended up liking more photos from my "extra" pics (3 out of the 4 shots in the collage are from the extras; I even have a couple more I wish I could share some time). I even liked the effect of the huge floor vase in the top photo.

So, I hope you like them too! Anyway, here are my photo notes -

  • Camera: Nikon D40x
  • Lens: Sigma 30mm f1.4
  • Lighting: Combination of natural light and indoor artificial light (a ceiling light and a floor lamp); No flash
  • Self-portrait strategy: Remote control!
  • Post-processing: Some iPhoto tweaks - a bit of straightening, some adjustment in saturation, sharpening, and some cropping (for a couple of the pics). The collage was created using Gimp.

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