Last week the art director of a magazine I was doing an illustration for said “Oh, you should send us a little biography and a picture of yourself for the contributor’s page” and I thought “I’ll draw a picture”.
I drew one picture, and it wasn’t right. So I drew another picture, and that wasn’t quite right either. And I realised that I have this weird Achilles Heel when it comes to drawing: I’ve always really struggled at drawing self portraits. I remember drawing bad self portraits at secondary school, but all my drawings were bad then, and I had similar problems when I was at art school, so I just avoided self portraits and drew other things instead. Nowadays I don’t have any problem drawing portraits of other people (it’s basically all I do, in fact) but there’s something strange and deceptive about self-portraits.
It’s like I have the illusion of knowing what my own face looks like; but when I try to pin it down it’s actually not very precise. I know what all the features are, sort of, but when I draw them I can tell that there’s something not quite right. It reminds me of how they cast stunt doubles and lookalikes in movies, how the actors have similar distinctive features, but are always slightly different. (I’m not sure why but scenes like the Stunt Double fight in Scott Pilgrim, or the bit where they’re trying to replace Brett in the band in Flight of the Conchords really crack me up).
Anyway, I spent a year teaching at Edinburgh College of Art and constantly telling students that if they ever struggled with something they should experiment and practice until they were good at it, so it would be terrible of me not to do the same. Today I made a lot of self-portaits, and none of them look exactly like me, but they all look exactly like people who could pass for my stunt doubles if I was ever in a film. Enjoy!