Self Portrait of the Artist as a Creepy Man

September 27th, 2007 by roblog · 2 Comments

This post comes in response to the self portrait question on the ARTH 460 blog.

Last year I painted my “Self Portrait of the Artist As a Creepy Man” for my Painting I class, and, disappointed with the results that came from my classmates’ efforts to photograph themselves in alluring, idealized or profound poses, I decided to work from a mirror, making the same vapid expression I make when I paint. When I realized how creepy and uncomfortable the painting was, I decided to emphasize the smaller flaws in my face: crazy-man hair, zits,nosehairs, stubble, a uni-brow. I painted myself in my everyday work clothing, what I am most comfortable in: my favorite plaid shirt, undershirt and corduroy jacket. The background, which I am least happy with, was the actual setting of the painting studio.

The result was a creepy frontal stare from a crazy-looking mountain man, not an altogether incorrect portrayal, but perhaps an ironic exageration of my more controversial (but just as real) features.

Portrait of the Artist as a Creepy Man

The audience question, though, is an interesting one: for painters today, audience theoretically isn’t supposed to change the work. Therefore, I decided I would stand behind my painting for any audience, which worked until my grandparents came to look at the painting. Pappy looked at it closely for a while, then turned to Gramma and said “Remember, its not how we see him, its how he sees himself.” It was the only time I have been uncomfortable presenting myself as my self portrait. Which brings this post back to the topic at hand: much more so than today, baroque and rococo self-portraiture, especially for women, was governed by a need to present oneself at his or her very best. Artists were forced to choose the elements that they wanted to emphasize in their own character, which for women was very much defined by their own appearance. Luckily, in today’s art world, I can comfortably present myself in an uncomfortable way without risking dismissal as an artist.

I’m going to do another self portrait this year for my Caravaggio series. We’ll see how it changes.

Tags: Art · ARTH460 · Women and Art

2 responses so far ↓

  • maoch // Sep 27th 2007 at 1:37 pm

    I think your grandfather’s response is wonderful…and gets to the problem of portraits. Are we looking for the face? How do we recognize a particular face? Connecting “face” to “facade” may bring us to all the “stuff” that is part of a “portrait.”

  • intertextuality // Sep 30th 2007 at 8:57 pm

    This reminds me of the Beat Poets. (
    Representing things as they are, or even exaggerating their flaws, is a way of paying them a certain kind of homage.

    And yet, why is it particularly hard for women to shake presenting themselves in a physically pleasing manner in order to illicit a positive value judgement from others?
    And even more so, why do we want to see our progeny as positive/beautiful reflections of…gasp…ourselves?

    …thanks for frustrating those expectations.