Looking back at the drawing I see that to much detail (eyes, hair, lips, glasses..)and not enough shape and form in the sketch – too young look

I am aware of my own facial expressions whilst making the painting and feel quite exposed. I do look tired and stern! The changing light becomes and issue and I decide to come back to this portrait early mornings. I see how the face is becoming wider on the Right side – need to work on plane changes on the side of the face – softer edges I think will also help. I can also bring the mouth in – shorten. The drawing on the left is still a work in process – thinking of doing another self portrait with tonal values.

I find that looking at the painting below, I have put the emphasis on my gray hair as well as my dark glasses – lines are to strong, although I like how the clothing came out. I have at this stage started looking at artists who draw with paint when starting a portrait. I did a workshop with a Bulgarian artist during the week who draws her model immediately onto the canvas and starts working wet on wet with the ‘flesh tones’. I feel I have to try this in order to create form and have softer natural edges and focussing on how light reflects from the environment onto the skin.

Head and shoulder portrait on A4 canvas sheet


I worked with a few paintings of my husband sleeping. I feel a bit frustrated for my lack of a proper model and ideas of working my way through this part of the course with the model to my exposure. I have explore my own ‘created’ opportunities as the exercise ask for an experiment with lighting, colour and tonal arrangement. This working process where my model is used, almost unknowing, makes me take this exercise in a bit of a different direction. I take my understanding self portraits and portraiture as something where I as the artist can consciously make decisions of control about what I include and exclude and see this as an opportunity to paint someone who is not aware of my intentions to capture his image whilst asleep. I want to create likeness as I see the possibility of this process as a repetition for learning and creating.

I deliberately chose to work with big brushes and load it with paint – fast approach to a situation that I could not control – that is my model turing over. I used expressive paint strokes and colours to work with.

In the workshop with OCA tutor Caroline Wright, a student mentioned the pillow and white space it created, which could bring in some abstract ideas of drama and captured moment of unconsciousness. I look at it and feel some tenderness in the way the light falls onto the nose and the complete resting moment I see. Later in my tutoring session with my tutor she referred to me looking at the work of Sergeant and Gainsborough and look at the works how they have degrees or areas of refinement. I will look at works on the National Gallery website to learn from this discussion.


Above painting was done whilst I attended the Zoom group session with OCA tutor, Caroline Wright – the idea was to focus on fine art making, being in the studio, making work and sharing. I was sitting in front of a window, and it was already after midday here in Dubai when I started with the fleshtones. (the session started at 9am UK time) I found that I battled to get the tones on my skin done – difficulty in looking and then putting the paint down on the right spot. My palette was Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Deep, French Ultra Marine, Terre Verte, Raw Umber and Ivory Black. Whilst working on the painting, I see glimpses of myself and ways in which my expression is shown. Interesting was that I worked in the lower part of the canvas – it was as if the fact that I was trying to capture myself at work, looking up to see myself in the mirror, almost forced my to the lower part of the canvas. I see the space above my head as part of the learning and almost overwhelming experience of focussing on me as the model. Whilst working, I found that my forehead was to big, so I had to do some adjustments, by now the paint was a bit dry and my head/hair was very difficult to adjust. I decide to focus on the facial expressions I find whilst sitting in this contemplating/working mode. I do not feel as though I was posing for a photo, this is a more natural side of my character – deep into working and focussing. It makes me think to do a bigger work – whilst at work. Maybe a bit ambitious as I am thinking of the great masters and their paintings at work – Velazquez. I came upon a contemporary artist and enjoy her self portraits and the viewpoint she uses. At this stage ideas in my mind about making a self portrait are around real, reflection, representation – Am I creating out of the truth, the real? Is this what it represents?

I will continue working on this painting; I felt I discovered more learning and need to put that into practice – with regard to mixing the skin tones, I learned that when is mix more than 3 colours per mixture the tones becomes muddy and almost dead colours. I will be working more on this painting in the next few days and add the updated work in progress. I can so relate to Seargent’ s opinion that the most important thing is not the search for results, but the intellectual challenge that exists in the construction process! I know this comes with more and more time spent painting!

Looking at the interpretive side of the exercise I feel the aim to convey character through facial expression is achieved. I feel my face shows tenacity and focus.

Portrait of Tienie at work

I did a quick painting from life, Tienie doing his work. I feel I should not have focussed so much on the eyes and glasses – in the end I just added background colours and decided to add it to the exercises, as I am not feeling comfortable with my efforts. I wonder if it is at all possible to go back to this work and correct the eyes and work more on the tonal values and form of the face.

On Wednesday 12 February 2020 I was watching a Youtube video on the BP Portrait Awards , and was literally driven to tears by one of the artists and winner: her tenacity struck me and I decided to not give up. I saw how she did self portraits by have the mirror on a small easel on the table in front of her, and her work on her lap. I found this a better working position and decided to give it a try. I started another self portrait to keep the practice alife and learn more.

Tenacity 1 12 February 2020, 10:37am
work in progress – looking for corrections to drawing – finding some

Clearly I am struggling – my head does not fit my neck1

Whilst working, I can almost find my face turning into a smile – a good sign that I am hanging in. I do small measurements. The light is not so good anymore and I think I will continue tomorrow morning again. I love my set up – my small aluminium foldable tri pod is standing on my desktop and I can work sitting at my table. I realise a bigger mirror would have been a nice to have, but I have to make do with what I have. Fresh eyes tomorrow…

I see something wrong with the eyes – size differ, left eye more to back and/the line/skew? Need to re access now. 13 February 2020 9:31am

I came back to the self portrait part of this course after my video tutorial with my tutor. I felt I had learnt ideas that had to be tried out and develop my explorations into these studies. I am convinced that using myself is a model to experiment with this painting practice is just about as good as it can get at this stage. I can learn and push the boundaries, get to the sense of myself as the subject. I am reminding myself the reason in learning my practice and developing my own voice and painting style.

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