Self Portrait Comparisons

Every once in a while, I find it’s nice to attempt a self-portrait. After all, what face are you more familiar with than your own? My kids and wife are surely very close, and I’ve drawn them all many times. But drawing my own face is kind of a nice pulse check; a way to see if (and how) my style or techniques have changed over time. I believe my last solo self-portrait was way back in June 2019, which was a pretty rough (and quite brief) foray into digital drawing. Prior to that, I’d attempted a standard pencil and paper self-portrait in December 2018 that I thought turned out fairly well. And a few drawings even earlier that included me along with the rest of my family. Anyhow, to the point – it does seem to have been a while since I’ve drawn myself. So, I decided to give it a shot recently.

Browsing these older portraits gave me the idea that it might be nice to see these side-by-side for easier comparisons. So, I created a timeline below which includes this recent self-portrait, along with others I’ve done over time. I got back into the art hobby in summer of 2017 starting with graphite pencil, eventually progressing into colored pencil in 2018, and continuing to where we are now approaching the end of 2021.

A selection of self-portraits over the past four years. 2018 in particular showed significant progress because I did quite a lot of drawing that year. Links below will navigate to each original post.
11/16/20173/10/20187/24/201812/22/201810/1/2021
Tired DadWeddingNew OrleansContrastCoffee

Getting into this project made me take some time to consider how far I’ve come over the past four years of drawing. Once I finished pasting together the timeline image, the progression really jumped off the screen! At least from my perspective, the difference seems significant; it seems all of this practice has really changed the way I draw. Between 2017 and and 2021, I’ve done over 150 drawings, most of which were head-and-shoulders portraits of people. Although it didn’t seem like much at the time, seeing the total count does make it feel like a lot of art. In that time, I think my technique and skill have improved in a linear way, but also the overall style has changed as well. I’m no expert though, so perhaps that’s just how it looks when a person improves at a specific artistic skill.

A comparison of digital drawings, which I find very difficult and rarely attempt. Left was done June 2018, right was from June 2019.

Another thing comes to mind too, though. When I compare these older and newer drawings, it sometimes makes me think about a harsh-but-fair critique someone gave me a couple of years ago: “If you work at becoming a better artist, you will rely less on solid lines.” It may have been phrased less tactfully, but that was the gist of it. I was actually kind of “in my feelings”/bummed out about the comment at the time, but I think I better see and understand what they meant now. I still definitely have to create outlines first, but I see less thick pencil lines in the finished products. I don’t think that’s inherently “good” or “bad” as that person was suggesting, and I’m still not sure that I completely agree with the critique, but losing those thick and noticeable lines is a change that happened organically over time as I practiced. So who knows, maybe they did know what they were talking about? This probably goes back to me not having formal art training to know if that’s some sort of scholarly art truism or something.

Anyhow, getting back to the discussion of self-portraits. In a way, the potential exists for self-portraits to become somewhat of a boring exercise. Especially if you do them too often. Yes, it is a good way to test your skills on something that should be relatively comfortable. But drawing that same face that you are already familiar with could threaten to become tedious. Because of that, I’ve tried to do some unique or different facial expressions in more recent self-portraits. That was definitely true with this one; I decided to go with a weird smirk and an excellent cat-themed coffee mug. Here is the final result:

When I look at the timeline of my self-portraits, I am definitely encouraged by what I see. I think this latest one turned out pretty well. My usual starting point for evaluating any drawing of a person is, does it look like the subject? The answer is yes here – this definitely looks like me. My prominent nose looks like the right shape, my deep-set eyes look right, and my thick eyebrows even seem to be the correct color variants. I figured the trickiest part of this drawing would be trying to capture whatever odd smirk I had going; surprisingly, I think I actually got that down! The shape is pretty much accurate, despite being an awkward thing to attempt.

I think the most iffy part about the final result was how the coffee mug turned out. I wanted a little shiny reflectiveness to show here, but what I ended up with was not quite right. The shading in a way suggests the curved nature of the cup, but it doesn’t really reflect at all. Sort of a less-than-ideal result on the cup itself. Although, I do like the cat faces! My kids even helped me pick the colors for the cats, so that was fun.

For a time-lapse of the drawing in progress, here’s one of my usual high speed videos set to music:

I actually posted this one to YouTube like a month ago…so clearly I am behind in sharing art! I am slowly catching up again though, so perhaps a time will come when I actually have nothing on backlog! That’s probably overly optimistic, since there are always new ideas and projects on the horizon. But let’s just pretend like I’m actually going to catch up.

Also, I want to mention that there is a custom portrait giveaway/raffle in process! The prize is basically a drawing from me of whatever the winner choses (within reason). The giveaway will be going on for another few weeks, so give it a shot if you like the artwork on Amdall Gallery. The entry widget (via Gleam) is embedded in the side panel, and I’ll also try to share it below. Good luck to everyone who entered!

Fall 2021 Portrait Giveaway

4 comments

  • I like the timeline images. The latest drawing looks a little softer in line work than the others and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, you’ve a great eye for hair. Great image.
    I also like the size and angle of the cup which appears to be white porcelain to me. Cute cats!

    • Hello Claire! Much appreciated, agreed it definitely looks softer than the others. It seems to me like there is even a gradual change of hard lines to much softer throughout all of them. It wasn’t an intentional change, but just sort of happened. Perhaps more aggressive color layering is factor?

      I love those cat coffee mugs, I think they’re some of my favorites. Perfect slightly larger size, hilarious cat faces. My mom has two of them and I have yet to find them in stores – but I won’t give up!

  • Are looking in a mirror or is this drawn from a photo reference ? All in all great work, I dig all of them. Video would’ve been a hoot had the actual artist turned to face the camera with cat mug in hand.

    • Greetings Matt, appreciate that! It’s from looking at a photo – I am really not very good at drawing from life, even if it’s myself in a mirror. I think that’s probably a good future avenue for practice though!

      Haha yes that would have been really funny to have a clip at the end of me actually holding that mug – have the video flip based on the mug moving toward or away from the camera. Then maybe even have a cat jump onto the table or something – next time, cat mania!

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