Scruffy Man Paints Himself

Self portrait by Simon BirtallThis self portrait was made a couple of weeks ago, on 29th January 2015. Painted in acrylics on the back of some mount board, it (perhaps unsurprisingly) depicts myself. When wanting to make a figure study from life the self offers a certain convenience.

Keen-eyed observers will note that I made little effort to ‘brush up’ for the ‘sitting’. The unkempt beard and hair are symptomatic of someone who spends most of his time working from home and has little face-to-face contact with his clients. I’d like to say the beard is an affectation but let’s face it, I just can’t be bothered shaving. My one concession to vanity was to omit my glasses – without them I could just about see my reflection in focus.

I had been given a few mount board cut-offs a while ago and having enjoyed working on such a surface before (for example on a portrait of my mum) I was keen to try it again. Painted in Winsor & Newton acrylics, I approached this piece a little differently to normal. With no initial drawing out, I just ‘went for it’ – quickly noting down broad blocks of colour, then gradually building up colour, tone and definition as I plodded along.

My primary concerns with this study were to capture the light on my face, a convincing likeness and to not damage my wife’s mirror. Thankfully the new, spontaneous approach seemed to work fairly well and I was able to capture a reasonable likeness in around an hour without damage to house and/or home.

Having been given a load more mount board I’m looking forward to doing more of this sort of thing. My only issue now is the price of acrylic paint. I’ve been using the same family of paints for years and been extremely happy with them. But when on earth did tubes that once cost me around 4 or 5 quid a time go up to 14 nicker?!

Sitting for a self portrait

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