Self-Portrait with Approval

Self-Portrait with Approval

I wanted to draw in conté sticks again, and was eager to take a high contrast photo. I sketched out my profile the day before, as well a friend who posed for me. However, neither of these really spoke to me so I needed some new references. Fortunately the day was sunny so I used my South-facing balcony to take a burst of sunny selfies.

Dealing with the topic of selfies, I've turned to my gadgets and started taking my own photos with the help of a timer. This allowed me to capture a pose with relaxed shoulder, as opposed to a selfie-induced dislocation, and gave me an added flair of spontaneous, relaxed face. The first photo I made seemed the best candidate - an annoyed face as the sun was too strong in my eyes, with my hair drying on one side. This will be the one. Lots of shadows and lots of moodiness.

I've made a light sketch in hard graphite and quickly moved to conté. Building up midtones is such a joy to me on rough paper. I don't worry too much about my hatching technique, I'm not concerned by pressure. This is to me the most forgiving medium (until I get a better hang of charcoal).

As my face slowly revealed itself, I've started taking photos of the work. A) because it helps to see how a drawing is going when looked at through different lens, and B) because I was getting tired of working alone in my bubble and putting it on my Instagram story for a moment seemed like a nice pick-me-up.

What came soon was a flurry of reactions. Hearts. Smiling faces. Hearts smiling faces.

But then, something happened. When I came back to it, the drawing was... dead? It no longer spoke to me, not as it did a moment ago. Did I kill it? Have I shown it too soon? I found this inner turmoil fascinating. I've shown process many times. I never abandoned the painting because of it. What was it?

It took being honest with myself to realise: I needed this approval. I really really needed it. I've spent two months working on different styles for my application portfolio, and every single thing I made absolutely needed to be the one to go into the portfolio. I was tired. I didn't feel like I was excelling.

Having my friends virtually clap and send hearts for my work filled my spirit (and ego a bit), but what filled my creative self was realising I cannot exist in vacuum and burn myself out with my own expectations. It is exactly why I need to go study in a group.

With this, my drawing changed. I will not add the clouds. I will not finish it in a traditional sense.

Instead, I took a screenshot of the literal affirmation slider that is offered in Instagram, the one asking "How much you love this?". I sketched it out, and then drew it above my squinting face in pastel.

The lesson from this one? Don't ask for approval. You might get too much of it.

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