It's like Mae West said, "When your husband gives you a gift for no reason. There's a reason." All that to say, that the artist uses him/her self as a model for a reason. A lot of reasons. First, because we are all so cooperative. And good looking. Plus we work for peanuts.
Next, the artist can mess with his own head. So if we want to make us look fatter or skinnier, no problemo. Or if we want to make us look like idiots, then it's just straight realism.
Artists have done self portraits forever. Look at God, for Pete's sake. He made man in his image. Some of my favorite self portraits show the artist at various stages in their lives, bandaged ear and all.
We all, if we are honest, have those bandaged ear phases of our lives. It is not always easy to be so transparent and naked when painting a self portrait. But it is good for the soul, and tells the world a lot. Sometimes more than you might realize.
I enjoy it when people analyze a painting. "You may be right, or you may be wrong, are you gonna miss me when I'm gone..."-Leadbelly.
An interpretation of art says as much about the reviewer as the art. I was just at an art show and a woman was looking at a painting that was a simple self portrait of the artist standing by his canvas. And I heard her saying, "This artist was a lover. He knew that he had to grab the opportunity that was in front of him. He had such passion, such lust for life. He knew that if he did not commit to the love in front of him, it wouldn't be there if he left and came back."
Well, she was really talking about herself and her boyfriend. You see he was just leaving for a round the world trip by himself. I knew him.
Each of these paintings is a self portrait of myself. I used me not because I am an egomaniac, although, I guess I don't get to vote on that one, but because I was ready, willing, and available. A cheap date.
The top piece is from my book Tom Thumb, and I was a derelict tinker. As I said, realism. The elf dancing is probably more Freudian, but it is me, I like to dance, and draw with a really big pen. See, I say one thing and you think another. One of my favorite lines is in Ground Hog Day after Phil steals the groundhog, and Andie McDowell says, "Why would anyone steal a groundhog?". And Larry says, "I could think of a few reasons, ...pervert!"
It is like the icon. It is a window into the artist's soul, but also a window into the viewer.
The elf with the key was the first painting for my version of Clement Moore's, The Night Before Christmas. It is an accurate self portrait in that I did not know what kind of art I was going to do for this book. I could not see where I was going, like the elf with his hat over his eyes. But he is holding a gold key. So deep inside, I knew that I was on the right track, I just had to press on and I would find the treasure chest.
The guy on the left is me. I used my grandfather's watch. He was a watch maker, a strawberry farmer, and a circus performer. I used this image as a sign for our gallery that we had for a while in Port Townsend. I made up his vest. I wish I had a vest like that. Stars on the front with cresent moon buttons, and checkerboard on the back.
The rabbit who is reading, was a self portrait that I did as a demo for a class that I was teaching in Hawaii. I and the students did several self portraits, and it is a challenge, because you have to ask, "Who am I? What is it that captures who I was, am and want to be? What medium do I use? How honest do I want to be?" Since I was just beginning to work on my book, The Magic Rabbit at the time, I was totally immersed in all things rabbit. I was in fact, a rabbit.
Making a self portrait is a form of catharsis. Try it. Who cares if they will use it on the cover of Vanity Fair. It might however give you insight into yourself. It will surely be a gift for someone else.
This last one is me and tape. What can I say. I like tape.