I’m struggling to pin down when this was produced. It was painted using as its reference a Polaroid picture (which I still have) circa 1998/9. I barely remember making this. By the look of it, there was originally a highly textured abstract piece on the board, which presumably I didn’t like. Or perhaps I just ran out of surfaces to deface and decided to arbitrarily recycle. You’ll have to build a time machine and go ask younger me. I find the haphazard blobs of texture and bits of colour from the original work poking through a little disturbing, which of course also means I find them very satisfying. This isn’t a particularly flattering likeness (the Polaroid doesn’t exactly make me look like Brad Pitt either) but I think this choice of image and depiction says something of the slightly distorted and unflattering view I have of my physical appearance. I’m certain this distortion was less apparent in my early 20s, but years of psychological cruelty through my school year about my looks (and intelligence) have left me with a scar tissue over my self-appraising mind’s eye, something that is also very common among those with ADHD. I’m capable of appreciating that I’m a reasonably good looking guy (at least by the standards set by modern society) yet I cannot feel it. The fact that I was likely a perfectly decent-looking kid, yet still was considered a geeky mess (to my recollection), speaks more to how a carried myself – awkward, inward, grumpy, untouchable and odd – than my actual physical appearance. But then, perhaps my memory of events of those years is distorted, and it is only me who ever viewed myself in that way.
This self portrait was submitted to and rejected by Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year. I’m sort of glad it didn’t make the cut, as being subjected to an intense four hours of painting surrounded by onlookers and TV cameras would, I think, be a little much for my already hyperactive brain. I accompanied the image with a short (and not very erudite) commentary which I’ve included below.
I’d recently got back into making pictures on the advice from my therapist as a great way to help keep my hectic, wondering ADHD brain in check. The 2017 season is the first Portrait Artist of the Year I’ve watched, and forced my family to watch, and my wife ‘dared’ me to make a submission. Since my last self-portrait was painted 20 years ago I had to create one especially. I actually painted two, of which this I felt was the better and the most illustrative of my style and of me as a person. Anyone who knows me knows I come in two flavours 1) dark, brooding, moody, with a love of the macabre, angry music, and all things dark and sinister and 2) passionate, enthusiastic, animated, gregarious, outgoing and optimistic. Some times you get one or the other, some times you get both at once, which is a little scary. With this portrait, which is referenced from a selfie taken on my phone, I wanted to illustrate the dark and the light that characterises me. In addition to this I love painting contract in light and colour and I really enjoyed making this.
A painting of my children from a impromptu photo taken by my wife. I particularly enjoyed doing the turquoise reflection on the skin of Joseph’s jaw.