Self-portrait in acrylic: behind the scenes

January 4, 2014 – 1:38 pm

Here’s what a self-portrait in acrylic looks like when you don’t know what you’re doing beyond following the order of paint colors in an Instructables tutorial. First you sketch the outline with yellow (super-rough) and purple (less rough). If you’re me, troche you get your face proportions wrong, more about but: onwards!


Then you add red for the blush on the face and your pink polarfleece. In the meantime, your cousins (who’ve initiated this Happy Fun Paint Time) are painting more logical things like geometric shapes or bowls of soup.


Shadows with green. Insert skepticism here about the tutorial, because you look like the Incredible Hulk with a sunburn. But you’re too far in to stop now.


More shadows with blue. I didn’t realize I should have drawn different shadows with blue than with green; overlapping them results in mud. It has also started to grow apparent that I’m going to have a halo between my head and the background because I don’t trust my accuracy working any closer to the hair. However, the underpainting is now done.


The overpainting of the face with orange leads to more “um… I’m not sure about this tutorial…” mutterings as I start looking like a human carrot. Then white to lighten it, and — magically, a human being appears! I whitened a bit too much, as it turns out; I now look like I have talcum powder on my face. Also: badly dyed hair. However, the portrait is done, and it’s… for a first time, it’s not bad. Subsequent iterations should improve considerably.


And the original picture, taken hastily on my phone for reference so you can see the mouth is way too big.


This commentary is rather self-deprecating, because humor’s a good defense; I do know that this is both a reasonable first try for an amateur and a far cry from anything that could be called skilled. The cautiousness, I think, comes from a parallel universe from 10 years back when I majored in engineering instead of art (parents). Wondering what I’d have become as an art major. Nervous to discover I wouldn’t have been a good one.

But we don’t live in those parallel universes; we live in this one. This is what I painted now, not what I would have painted 10 years back. And one painting now doesn’t mean I need to keep on painting ’till I’m as perfect at it as I’d like to be; it means that for an evening, I had fun, whether I paint later or not. So, er… process of becoming an artist, I suppose. Wanted to mark and share.

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  1. 3 Responses to “Self-portrait in acrylic: behind the scenes”


    Yay! So fun!

    By Megan on Jan 4, 2014

  3. Nice painting.There are artists who strive to photo-realism and those who can do so. Many artists do such things in the course of practice but never continue in the course of their work. In any case, its not important if your work becomes photo-realistic, its a fine attempt at portraiture at it is, it captures your skill and something about you in it. Chuck Close made portraits using him thumb, that’s a novel approach if your looking for a challenge.

    By kevix on Feb 7, 2014

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