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m i xe d -m e d i a

self - portraits
inspiration & techniques

cate coulacos prato


chap ter 1:
it’s all about you: the importance of the artist’s self-portrait
history of self-portraits
they said it themselves
art therapy
thera peuti c self-p ortra its linda edkins wyatt
i grew up in blueb eard’ s castl e juliana coles
feel the pain
refle ction s on a self-p ortra it cheryl prater
my body, not mysel f loretta benedett o marvel
aging grace fully allison stilwell
self-p ortra it, 2007 tracy stilwell

chap ter 2:
know thyself: taking the first step toward a self-portrait
self-portrait exercises
how to begin
wher e do those ideas come from ? yvonne porcella
working through it

chap ter 3:
reveal yourself: hands-on instructions for creating self-portraits
exploring roles
self-d iscov ery thro ugh journal dolls kelli perkins
capturing a life-in-progress
wher e have i been? wher e am i now?
wher e am i going ? kelly rae roberts
documenting a year
1967: my year, mysel f
(an alter nativ e self-p ortra it) debbi crane
self-portrait masks
pieces of me chrysti hydeck
using objects to tell a story
mixed -medi a assem blage jenn mason
documenting yourself in photos
whic h jane to depic t? jane lafazio

chap ter 4:
reflections: a gallery of self-portraits

about the contributors
focus on the eyes { by Carol Kemp }

The symbol that has always shown up in the cor- medium and subject that had a face. I did this for
ners of my notebooks in school and the scratch one year and surprisingly used my own face few-
paper by my phone has been the eye. I suppose er than 20 times out of 365 postings. However,
because the eyes tell so much about living be- this experiment taught me a lot about portraiture
ings. As an artist, the symbol continues in my and self-portraits, as well as the experience of
work, but there is also my desire to understand making art every day.
the eye and the face in which it sits. In August of In these examples I am using watercolor, but
2006, I challenged myself to create and post a the ideas hold true as to form and shape with any
face a day in a blog. The visage could come from medium. Look at your own eyes while reading
my mind, an observation, or a photograph. The this discussion to strengthen your observation.
boundaries were very wide, and I could use any

In the steps on the

right, this artist ex-
plains in detail how
to capture depth and
vitality when drawing
one’s own set of eyes.

11" x 17"

The Eyelid
and Muscle
The eyes are not shaped like footballs, but rather
are balls covered by a slit in the skin, which, when
opened, has the shape of a football or almond. The
slit has a thickness, and that knowledge helps to
make an eye look more three-dimensional. Also,
when the eye is opened, a crease (or two or more)
is created as the skin sits on top and around the
eyeball. At the corner of the eye is a muscle, one of
many that allows movement of the eye. This is the
area that collects the sleep sand. Including that little
pink muscle will help create depth. Because there
is a thickness of skin around the eye, a shadow is
created above the eye.
The Iris The Twinkle
The iris of the eye is not seen as a complete circle The last important step is the reflection of light, or
unless the person is in a pose of surprise; keep that what I call the “spark of life.” That reflection, done
in mind when drawing the iris. Some artists paint with a dash of white (or absence of paint with
the “whites” of the eyes first, leaving the iris as watercolor) is what gives the eye “life.”
negative space to be filled in. This technique works
well with acrylic, oils, and pastels. Note that the
iris is a color or combination of colors (take a look
in the mirror) and the pupil is black.

Drawing My Eyes
1  F
 irst, I used a pencil to draw lines to represent the shapes and
creases of my eye, including the shape of the reflective light that
shines on the iris and pupil. I traced the pencil lines with a kneaded
eraser to lessen the graphite marks. I created a light wash of light
pink and yellow and a tiny bit of blue to create an underlying skin
tone. This is a subjective choice that can be played with to cre-
ate the skin tone you desire. I covered the whole drawing with this
wash, except the whites of the eyes and the reflective spot.
2. O nce dry, I began to color the iris and pupil. I have blue eyes, so I
built up the color of my eye, layer by layer. To capture the nuances
in my eye color, I used layers of washes rather than applying one
thick coat of color. Also, while waiting for the paint to dry in the iris,
I applied washes of rose and yellow with a bit of blue over the deep-
est crease lines above and below the eye as well as to the side of
the nose, deepening the shadow that is created by the bridge of the
nose. I also darkened the muscle area at the corner of the eye.
Though I continue to darken these areas to create the form of
the eye, I try to avoid putting any of this wash above and below the
iris along the rim below the eye. I want to maintain a lighter value
here to help create the roundness of the form.
3. O
 nce the washes were dry, using the very small point of my brush,
I lightly outlined the eyelid and the under rim. I wanted this to be a
very subtle line, so I was careful with the amount of moisture on my
brush. Also, at this point, I added black to the pupil of the eye. The
upper lid of the eye created a shadow. This shadow was generated
using a light wash of gray made by mixing blue into my orange-ish
pink wash I had been using. This was one of the last things I did
since my painting must be dry otherwise the it would have smudged.
I have very little color in my eyelashes so I showed them as just
a touch of shadow. You will need to add more shadow for darker
lashes, but take care: A few subtle wisps of lash go a long way.

Mixed-Media Self-Portraits Cate Coulacos Prato

self-portrait, 2007 { by Tracy Stilwell }

The self-portrait project allowed me to pres- “things.” These items were all hand-stitched. I
ent the loves of my life (most of them) and the used images and trinkets that reflected things that
reminders of peace and personal bravery using I love and hold dear. The embellished face was af-
bits of those special mixed materials I keep fixed to a piece of foam core and attached to the
carrying around: a small transferred photo of inside of the box.
myself as a child, two very small plastic babies The wooden box was from the “stuff” collec-
symbolizing my children that have grown into tion picked up at a flea market. Prior to inserting
men, a mention of my “what would I do without the cloth face, I painted the outside of the box
her” girlfriend Sue, the garden, where we spend just to darken, not to actually cover, the wood.
endless hours digging, moving dirt, plants, trees, Then I painted big dots on top of the black with
rocks for fun and pleasure. Then, there is the watered-down white paint. Having been gifted
underlying and always challenging work of just with a container of shell rounds from a defunct
being: being calm, accepting, and grateful; being button factory, I glued some to the edge of the
centered and open; being responsible for myself; box.
being grateful again and again. The graphics for the inside edges of the box
This project started by scanning a charcoal started with a plain piece of watercolor paper.
drawing of myself (from my first and only draw- I gathered scrap papers, cut-out words, images,
ing class) into the computer to create a digital a sign from a driver in England that had “THE
image. After resizing the piece, it was printed GIRLZ” in big black letters, gel medium, an
onto photo transfer paper and ironed onto mus- old credit card for spreading the medium, and
lin. I used chalks, pencils, and watercolor pencils brown and black distressing inks. I drew the
to add color to the face and background of the needed shapes onto the paper and proceeded to
photo transfer. The black-and-white background collage with the papers and medium. The dis-
cloth was pieced together from black fabric that tressing inks toned down the papers and helped
had been discharged with bleach. blend the mixed papers. The inks can be applied
After machine stitching the face onto the directly and wiped around or with a foam ap-
discharged material, I went through fabric scraps plicator. The pieces were cut to size and glued
and picked out words and images that spoke to into place.
me and machine-stitched them in place. The thing that I loved the most about this
I pulled beads, flowers, little plastic ba- particular project is that I had a chance to use my
bies, buttons, rubber-stamped shrink plastic head, heart, and hands to create something with
pieces, and other goodies from my collection of the materials I had within reach.
its do not
wrinkles. always ha
They can ve to cou
be abstra n
loves, you
r challeng ct represe t the flaws or the
es, your a ntations o
ccomplish f your life
ments. , your 12" x 16" x 2½"

Mixed-Media Self-Portraits Cate Coulacos Prato

Art and introspection meet in
mixed-media self-portraits

The first mixed-media book to focus on the hot trend of self-portraits, Mixed-
Media Self-Portraits features a wide range of artists who explore creative
self-portraits through exercises, essays, and gallery art, offering readers
inspiration plus mixed-media, collage, and fiber art techniques.

Mixed-Media Self-Portraits contains:

a Introspective essays by artists that detail the creative
journey and personal inspiration behind their self-
portraits, inspiring readers to create their own.
a Creative exercises that allow readers to explore a variety
of mixed-media techniques and approaches to self-
a A variety of artist’s perspectives and artwork representing
different styles for inspiration

Filled to the brim with a wealth of inspiration, creative prompts,

techniques and compelling artwork, this book is an artistic guide to
representing the self creatively in mixed-media work. Makers of all
skill levels and mediums—collage, mixed-media, art quilting, paper
craft, assemblage, art dolls and more—will enjoy the focus on this very
popular art form.

about the author:

Cate Coulacos Prato is the
features editor for Quilting Arts Magazine ISBN 978-1-59668-082-1
and Cloth Paper Scissors. She lives in West $22.95
8½ x 10¼; 128 pages
Boylston, Massachusetts. Paperbound
November 2008