How self-portraits helped me live.
I am not too fond of my own face, despite what my selfie folder might lead you to think. I like it enough in some flattering angles, but I won’t drown myself just to get a closer look of my own reflection.
I am also by no means a talented artist. I have long struggled with my drawing abilities, whether it’s for landscape, still life or portraits. I would love to achieve a higher degree of accuracy or realism, but alas I fail even at maintaining the consistency between the left part and right part of a drawing. Fortunately, after years of loathing the results of my doodles and scribbles, I have begun to make peace with my limitations. A realist painter I will never be, but at least I no longer cringe at my failed attempts to draw.
In the spirit of incremental progress in fine motor skills, triggered by my recent obsession with fountain pens, I am embarking to further enhance my drawing skills by drawing self-portraits, or at last some interpretation of a self-portrait. The initial reasoning was practicality, my face is a readily accessible reference, and I won’t have to deal with guilt of poorly drawing someone else’s face. It’s my face to mess up.
At first it was really awkward and uncomfortable, the whole process forced me to stare at my own face for long periods of time and scrutinize details about myself. I am forced to accept the fact that I am permanently scarred in certain areas. I am forced to admit that my cheek bone and jaw structure combination will always make me look rounded, which is probably why my late father called me “Bunder” (round). I am forced to admit that I have definitely gained weight, as demonstrated by my cheeks and chin, or should I say chins.
I have developed a tendency, recently, to draw or doodle as I listen to podcasts. What started as an attempt to draw a depiction of my face in a natural and realistic style evolved to doodles, surrealist scribbles, and other styles I have no idea of a label for. Gradually I sense changes, I dare say progress, in the results.
No, the results in terms of performance as a graphic artist are still very far from objectively satisfying. I still have problems with consistency, ever so often I draw myself with eyebrows of unequal height, as if I’m perpetually trying to do an impression of The Rock. The progress I found was in self-acceptance. I do believe that I have adjusted well enough to function as a mature adult in society, but I am still a human being, with all the insecurities that comes with being one. All those minutes spent looking at my own reflection or photograph had served as a period of, well, self-reflection.
As I make strokes to depict the perennial scowl line on my forehead, I made peace with the fact that I have worried so much in my life I need to relearn to how to live. I have yet been able to transfer the details of my face, but staring at the micro craters on my cheeks have lead me to accept that they will be there forever. No longer will I stroke my own cheeks and feel its smoothness as I did as a child.
No, I don’t feel ugly, despite having drawn myself from unflattering angles. Neither do I feel any more attractive than I have felt all along. I am me, with some room for development here and there, and further peace to be made with myself. I am a broken, beaten, persevering soul trapped in this shell of an aging body, and I have made steps to make the ride even more enjoyable for whatever period is left with every single second I spend looking at my own face as I try to project them to other media.
I probably won’t ever produce a satisfying facsimile of my face on a piece of paper, but I am getting closer, incrementally. I probably won’t ever be satisfied with myself, but I hope I will make peace with my limitations.