A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 48: Inspired by the Original Selfie


Recently, my co-worker noticed that I had been doing a lot of self portraits and remarked, “You’re very inspired by yourself lately.” Well, I hope it isn’t as self-centered as all of that. What I thought I was doing was taking images from the history of art – mostly, the original “Selfies” – and using the self portrait format to explore what those artists had done with color, line, composition, etc.

Portraits are a favorite of mine. Doing another person’s portrait is a great experience in many ways. I’ll probably explore that further in future posts this year. The self portrait is a fairly recent phenomenon for me. I did a couple of them in college, both of which are pictured below. The first was one that reflected some of the wire-wrapped canvases I was working on at the time. The other was a cartoonish attempt at displaying my state of mind down in the art department we called “the Dungeon”…

Part of my reawakening to creating art has been finding things to work on, to practice, to help move me along and help me improve. I think I look to the self portrait as so many artists have throughout history: It provides a readily available model (me) who happens to be around whenever I need him. Plus he’s cheap. And I can draw him without him taking offense at the finished product (most of the time). With the ease of digital photography, I don’t even need a mirror around, just a selfie that I can then turn into a self portrait. How handy!

Here’s some examples of self portraits I’ve done over the last couple of years…

Lately, I decided to revisit the concept of using an artwork from a famous artist in history as an inspiration for my own. I had first done this with the self portrait pictured at the beginning of this article. I had found a self portrait by Henri Matisse and, inspired by his wild use of color and simple drawing with basic details, I drew a self portrait that owed much him…

That was two years ago. For some reason, I went back to this idea again. In some cases I was inspired by the original Selfies of other artists, sometimes simply by the piece itself or the artistic movement it represents. Here is a small gallery of these self portraits and the inspiration for them side-by-side:

The first is one I drew for fun after looking at some colorful and whimsical work from Paul Klee. That set my on the path of creating more self portraits…

The second is an attempt to channel my inner Picasso…

The third was the most fun so far: Marc Chagall’s self portrait with seven fingers; a wonderful painting with so much autobiographical detail. Chagall puts in references to his Orthodox Jewish upbringing, his thoughts on the small town he grew up in, the fact that he was residing at the time in Paris, all presented in that dreamy and quirky Chagall style. I decided to add my own autobiographical detail: My thoughts on Colorado and the U.S.A. where I grew up, my current locale of Ottawa, Ontario, a reference to my love of comic books (see Spider-Man’s leg and arm in the “painting”?) as well as the dogs I grew up with and the church I lived next to, and, of course, a Denver Broncos Sweatshirt…

The fourth was inspired by a self portrait I found that Joan Miro had done in 1917. It looked very different from the works of Miro I was familiar with. I realized that as a young artist he was inspired by the Fauve movement happening in Europe at the time. Artists like Matisse and Andre Derain we doing radical experiments with color, composing their works with basic lines and shapes, steering clear of too much detail. Because of their bold and uninhibited style, they had been dubbed the “wild beasts” (fauves). Miro’s self portrait reflects their influence and consequently influenced me, too…

I just realized that in every single one of these self portaits, I’ve pictured myself in a hoodie!

I’m sure there will be more of these self portraits popping up this year. Don’t be too surprised to see my face pop up here again. Hopefully, you’ll understand it is an experiment in artistic expression and not an exercise in simple narcissism.

I least, I don’t think that’s what it is…





A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 19: Paul Klee



“A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.”

Paul Klee (1879-1940) was a Swiss-German artist with a unique style and a broad influence. He was a master of color and taught at the legendary Bauhaus school. As a teacher he was as inventive and progressive as his art, teaching his students to study the movement of fish in a fish tank or to draw the circulatory system. Today I want to share with you some of his work along with some of his words.

“Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter.”


“Castle and Sun”

“One eye sees, the other feels.”

“Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void. Ripe, graphic fruits fall off. My hand has become the obedient instrument of a remote will.”


“Insula Dulcamara”

“Children also have artistic ability, and there is wisdom in their having it! The more helpless they are, the more instructive are the examples they furnish us; and they must be preserved free of corruption from an early age.”


“Cat and Bird”

“When looking at any significant work of art, remember that a more significant one probably has had to be sacrificed.”

“He has found his style, when he cannot do otherwise.”


“Heroic Roses”

“To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me to be like a mathematical system that only concerns itself with positive numbers.”


“Death and Fire”

“The art of mastering life is the prerequisite for all further forms of expression, whether they are paintings, sculptures, tragedies, or musical compositions.”


“Red Balloon”

“Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.”


“Landscape with Yellow Birds”