View Full Version : C&C on Ugly Self Portrait, Please!

06-07-2015, 07:04 AM
I know it looks terrible, but I can't tell why exactly. Please give me your critiques! 17"x17" on Mi-Teintes paper. Thank you!

06-07-2015, 07:14 AM
really cool! nose is a little too much to our left.

06-07-2015, 08:18 AM
Your lighting has something to do with it. Your nose may in real life be a bit off to the side. Features vary. Look in a mirror that's vertical and drop a string with a weight so it makes a line down the middle of your face. You'll be surprised at the differences between right and left side. Most people are.

Really check your lighting. You've chosen a dramatic, unflattering angle of light. It's a powerful effect, but it's not a glamour shot for the person in the picture. You could put a famous actress in that pose and you'd still be staring up her nose with light coming from below as she nervously looks at whatever is about to make her scream. (Which isn't flattering either but is a trope from hundreds of movie posters and book covers.)

Looks like you're about to see the body or just heard the Awful Footsteps or the light source is the Alien Thing (aka Pandora's Box) and you're just realizing it. Great great drama. Light from the side and light from below.

The white cloth is giving you that "light from below." Try holding a flashlight down there and turn off the light from the side. It really is a striking image. It may not be inaccurate, but eliminating the side light would heighten the effect and make it even more intense.

The reason is the angle of the mirror.

If you want the portrait to look more conventional, lean over it to pose or find a way to move the mirror up and make it flat against the wall. What's "wrong" in this one is inherent to an unusual but very effective pose. LOVE the dark background. Don't bother with the flash of a knife behind you, the dark is even scarier! You could sell this to the author of a mystery or thriller for a book cover!

06-07-2015, 04:52 PM
I think Maryinasia and Robert have made good points. You have a bit of that "horror-movie" from below lighting and the nose seems a bit off (even taking into account people's non-symmetrical nature).

Here a blow-up with some guidelines. I've put in a centerline based on the eye position and some green lines which come straight down from the inner part of the eye. Those guidelines show how off centered the nose (both the point and the nostrils) are.


Using guidelines can be tough with pastel because they usually get wiped out or covered over, but using guidelines and measuring are the two most important things about portraiture, in my opinion.

Aside from the slightly off nose, I really like what you have done here! The composition is very clever, and the handling of the pastel is very well done!

And welcome to the pastel forum!


06-08-2015, 06:39 AM
I think that the dark line around the mouth are not only unflattering, but inaccurate given the light source/s. There is no "line" around a mouth. Ask yourself - how dark should this be? As dark as....(and choose somewhere else that is equally dark and see if you have it right). How light should this be? Lighter perhaps? How much lighter? Keep doublechecking all the time, comparing one area with another. It is the only way to get tones right. And those really need double-checking. I think you have gone way too dark in places.

While it is indeed interesting to position the head so close to the frame, the darkness of the hair being the same darkness as the background is giving you a problem in that the neck looks super narrow, instead of covered with hair to the right. If you have light coming from one side, it will illuminate parts of the hair. You need that, imho.

06-08-2015, 08:22 AM
Welcome to the Pastel forum and to Wet Canvas! As you see, you will find many helpful suggestions to improve your work and encouragement along the way. My best added advice is to let go of the harsh judgments about your work, and focus on the next best improvements to be made.

water girl
06-08-2015, 12:28 PM
Like Ken and the other members, I want to welcome you. You are off to a great start and there are plenty of helpful, sharing artist here to help you with your journey. Could you share a bit of your background with us? How long have you been painting? What is your preferred medium? Have you taken art classes or workshops? Or are you self taught?

06-09-2015, 06:43 AM
My best added advice is to let go of the harsh judgments about your work, and focus on the next best improvements to be made.

"harsh judgements" is a bit of a harsh phrase! I always feel it is important to take on both compliments and adverse comments - because we are none of us perfect, we are all of us in need of help and sometimes we need to be pushed to try to fix stuff especially when we recognise - and even bravely admit, as you did - that we are somewhat unhappy with what we have done in our artwork, and often cannot work out why.

It is not always comfortable to hear comments which point out weaknesses - but those comments should not be seen as "harsh judgements", they fall into the category of "comment and criticism" and actually, they help us to see more, to learn and to make good, proper, useful progress.

They open our eyes. And that is what every artist should be prepared, and happy, to do.

06-09-2015, 06:53 AM
Incidentally - your work does not "look terrible" at all .

Instead, rather than say "I know it looks terrible" I really recommend you say something like....."I tried hard with this one but there are some things that bother me a bit, I just am not totally satisfied but I am not entirely sure why"

Please do not put yourself, or your work, down. There is a lot of merit in what you have done, even if it does not please you as much you hoped it might. One of the great problems we all have to contend with is having huge expectations when we begin.....only to find that the darn painting has different ideas, somehow, and we dont quite live up to our own expectations! It's very common ...but is not a reason to condemn ourselves.

Instead, look for the good things, and be pleased with those; for example, there is an excellent sense of 3D form; there is a terrific expressiveness in the image, and lots of drama. There is a boldness to the composition. There is actually nothing "terrible" here. learn from others about the things which did not work as we had hoped, and move on to the next painting.

06-09-2015, 08:42 AM
eilineilin: As you see, you will find many helpful suggestions to improve your work and encouragement along the way. My best added advice is to let go of the harsh judgments about your work, and focus on the next best improvements to be made.

If you speak of your own work as 'ugly' or 'terrible', I consider this one of the harshest and most destructive of internal judgments, and deserving of attention. This is what you must let go of- the sooner, the better.

06-09-2015, 09:10 AM
ah gotcha Ken......you are of course absolutely right and spot on.

The written word can so easily be misconstrued. If you had added that little word "internal" initially, I would not have commented further.

06-10-2015, 07:08 AM
Thank you for the kind words and helpful observations, everyone!