self portraits

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Representations of Me

I had tremendous difficulty with this assignment: To sketch 4-6 representations of self. My self. And it was much harder than I had anticipated. I was challenged by my lack of artistic skills and my inability to think of how to represent myself on paper.

  1. When I first started thinking about how I wanted to sketch myself I thought about things in my life that I cared about, that said a bit about who I am. First is a book titled Feminist in Training which is what I consider myself to be. I have only been studying the theory and history of feminism for a semester. I realize that there is still much for me to learn about feminism which is why, for the time being, I am a feminist in training rather than a feminist. The second is a picketing sign. Though I must admit that I have never actually picketed myself, I have worked in grassroots organizing campaigns, walking door to door about environmental issues, mostly. The sign represents my drive to stand up for what I believe in and the change that can be enacted through those around you. Third is a three-way locket which read “sister,” “daughter,” and “girlfriend”. Initially the locket had only read “sister” and “daughter” and as an afterthought I added “girlfriend.” Only now, I am surprised that I did not think to put down “friend,” a lapse I find strange. I also can’t explain it. The last is an apple representing two things I believe are very important, health and knowledge. I liked that one fruit, which symbolizes the downfall of man, and women in particular, could also symbolize health and knowledge. It was an interesting paradox to me and so I included it. The woman in the sketch is meant to be me although it looks suspiciously like Jane Seymour. Unfortunately, I cannot explain the similarities. They were not intentional.

  2. I wanted to draw a picture that would represent my upbringing in Asia. The building in the background on the right hand side is a wooden pagoda. It looks like the Buddhist temples which I used to visit quite frequently while living in Hong Kong and travelling through China. It was always really dark, because of the wood stain, but the ceilings were brilliantly painted in bright reds and golds, as the colours of good luck and fortune. The figure walking away from the house could represent me but not necessarily. The figure is faceless and colourless partially because I couldn’t think of a face for it. I liked that it was androgynous, with no defining features or colours, just a series of grey lines on a pallid landscape. The figure is heading for a hong bao, a red packet which is filled with money or chocolate gold coins for Chinese New Year and given to all young and unmarried people. Chinese New Year was one of my favourite times of year when I was growing up, and the lantern flying off from behind the grey figure is one of the traditional activities of the festival. To celebrate the lunar new year we would have large lanterns that had either a candle or a light bulb in them. Everyone wandered the streets which would be filled with lantern light. The brown square which is slightly segmented into fours is a moon cake, the traditional good luck dessert during Chinese New Year. It is made of lotus paste and has a full, cooked egg yolk inside. The more egg yolks that are inside the moon cake, the better luck and good fortune you will have. Moon cakes with more yolk in them incidentally cost more… The one thing I wish was included in this sketch was a dragon. I tried and failed to draw a dragon, frustrated with my inability to draw. Nevertheless, it is a representation of growing up in Asia and the culture that I was a part of.

  3. Next is what I call my dreamscape, though it is not necessarily all about my dreams. In the centre of the page, through the black diamond which separates the foreground from the world behind it, is a tree on a hill. A person, me, sits beneath the sky thinking about the way of the world. Contemplating, I suppose. To the left side of the hill is another figure, a sleeping head, which also represents me. The hair flows from the interior world to the outer dream world. The hair becomes a boat which floats along aimlessly. Below the boat is a lily, one of my favourite flowers and my sister’s nickname for me. On the lily I drew a butterfly which I wanted to serve as a counterpoint to the birds on the opposite side of the page. The birds are flying inward and away from the numbers which are simultaneously flying and falling. Time is flying away, escaping me. The numbers fall in a lop-sided manner because of the craziness in which time blows by, in an uncontrollable manner. The heart in the lower right hand corner is my heart. I consistently choose my heart over my head, reason of the heart over reason of the brain. I find that the heart has a different kind of logic than the head, and I tend to listen to my heart the most. I’m a romantic that way. The green that surrounds the heart, however, represents my propensity to get jealous. My jealousy usually stays private and I don’t like to broadcast it too much. With my friends and family I am sensitive and am easily hurt. My fear of getting hurt sometimes manifests itself in the form of jealousy. It doesn’t happen that often but I certainly notice it from time to time.

  4. Fourth is a portrait of me. I don’t particularly think it looks like me but the resemblance is there. I am looking out, away from the viewer and at something in the distance. It is not contemplative but seeking. The eyes have a yearning, to see the future I think. They want to know what the future holds but are nervous to actually see it. The blue which surrounds the face is meant to impart a feeling of peace. I do think the blue makes the sketch less stark and draws the eye simultaneously to the face and away from it. I wish I knew what this face, the representation of me, was looking at. But the truth is I have no idea.

  5. Last is a collage of magazine cut-outs which caught my eye in a magazine. I decided to do a collage because I wanted to have a mini representation not just of how I see myself but also how I see the world. However, I was not entirely successful in my endeavour as the images shown do not represent my view of the world. Instead, I find it to be an interesting manifestation of my views on femininity. Dita Von Teese is the woman in the left hand corner. She is a well known burlesque dancer of the 50’s cabaret variety. I love how the sheer silk covers her body in a demure yet revealing way. It is almost the colour of her skin and flows off her body as though it was always meant to be there. I find the image very sexy and very beautiful. Below Dita is a painting which I found a print of in a magazine. I like the form of the faces and the colours used to represent them. The deep shadows, roundness of eyes yet sharpness of nose and chin contrast in an interesting way. They are strong and soft, contemplative and sad, dark and muted but colourful at the same time. I really like that dichotomy. To the left of the faces are a pair of ballet slippers. I love watching professional dancers dance, especially ballet. I find the combination of music and dance very powerful and seeing a ballerina leap across the stage provides me with an indescribable thrill. I have always wanted to be a dancer but I find that I am not light enough on my feet for it… On the opposite end of the page are deep purple orchids. Orchids remind me of my home, Singapore, where orchids are everywhere. The Botanic Gardens has an Orchid garden filled with literally thousands of orchids. They are exotic, beautiful, and so unique. They are relatively delicate as well, requiring a lot of care to grow successfully. The lilies up above, again, remind me of my sister and her nickname for me. I also find this particular photograph of them intriguing. Lilies are very light and bright flowers, I think, but this photo portrays them in a more sultry way. They are clear and out of focus at the same time and, incidentally, point directly to Dita Von Teese’s chest.

As I mentioned earlier, this was an extremely difficult assignment. I think my frustration and struggle to find ways to represent myself lies in the fact that this semester has been spent in much self-analysis, trying to figure out how I feel about certain issues/experiences and why I feel the way I do. It has been a tremendous period of growth for me but I am still unsure of where I stand. I am trying to figure out how the people around me see me, what my relationship is with them, and it has not been an easy task. I think this confusion manifested itself in my sketches which appear to me to be half-there. I do not feel that they are fully developed representations of me… but it is all I have been able to come up with. Despite my frustration it was something I had to sit back and accept. I suppose I am just not at a point where I can draw a representation of me and know for certain that it will truly demonstrate my views and values. It was a hard realization to make, but definitely worthwhile. I probably won’t draw again anytime soon. It was difficult to be an artist on-demand, to have to perform even though not inspired. I wonder what kind of a product I would have produced had we not been toward the end of the semester? Regardless, I enjoyed the experience and the opportunity for further self-analysis very much.

 

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