Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Reflection of International Self-Portrait Day

I always find it interesting to look back and think about where I've come from versus where I am now. I think it's important to self-reflect. You see, a lot of people probably don't know it, but I use the International Self-Portrait Day (ISPD) as a way of seeing what sort of progress I've made over the years. I can say that I haven't exactly followed it perfectly, but it's something that is useful to gauge. I think overall, self-portraits can be a great way to reflect in that way. After all, who better to know you... than well, YOU?

I've done quite a few self portraits over the years, at all different points in my skill, and knowledge. I think it's important to note that there's consistent growth.

JULY 2012

I'm pretty sure that there are older ones all throughout the years, but for some reason this one just so happened to be the earliest on that I could find in my archives. This might be my first real attempts playing with digital painting. I didn't know much more than the hard round brush at the time, but I don't think it really mattered. It was all about finding the forms. Searching the canvas, as it shows in my stroke economy. I was just making an attempt to make sure that I got things in their right place more than anything else.


This most likely starts my exploration phase with brushes. Texture wasn't exactly something that I knew about yet, I just knew that digital painting is/was something that I wanted to conquer! 
And so I continued on...

MARCH 2013

What's really interesting is that this one might've been my first attempt at real speed paint. I just threw strokes and textures all over the place! It's a blast once you start to get the hang of how the brushes themselves react on the canvas.

JULY 2013

I would consider this to be a considerable milestone. This is the beginning of my true understanding of how both form and texture combine. It could still be cleaned up some to this day, but there's some real breakthrough that happened here. When I look back it from today, it's so strange to think back to what 2013 offered versus what I can execute now.

I remember in those days thinking about how long this took, how I could easily work faster in traditional versus digital. I would constantly question what the point of working digitally was and why I wouldn't just jump off that bandwagon and just push pencils and inks - not realizing that these two could be done in tandem. I was pretty naive in those days compared to now.


Before the attempts at ISPD, I was doing school assignments that started to push those boundaries of what digital painting could actually do for me. For the longest time I actually pushed against this whole 'cloud-brush-form-build-up', but now it's like my default starting a canvas piece. I just randomly throw clouds on the canvas as a way to get something, anything, on the canvas. A blank canvas is WAY more intimidating than one that has something to build upon. In a way, I look at texture applied to a canvas in the same way that I look at say... gravel or sod. They are there to be build upon. Therefore, it's up to you to push and pull as needed to tend to the garden.

APRIL 2015

This was part of a final illustration assignment for school. My teacher, Michele Noiset, gathered all of us together to find a way to channel ourselves into a single portrait. I'm a very serious person when it comes to my art, and I can almost guarantee that I have this exact look on my face while I work. It's in such stark contrast to my usual, goof-ball self. I guess we all have our serious moments, huh?

Fun fact: That logo was one that I used for the LONGEST time. Look on my InstaGram and you'll see reflections of this logo to this day. I have an affinity for both cyberpunk and 80's aesthetic, so what better way than to channel it into an aged-looking icon. Ahh the retro vibe... how I love thee.


I could've sworn this was a lot earlier than this, but this project was insane. Somehow I got roped into doing a thirty-day challenge in which we were to draw a self portrait for every day of the month. These were so stupid fast at the time. I made sure that every one of them was before I would start working for the day, so approx. thirty to forty-five minutes each.

I can tell you, it's stupid intense, but grew my brush economy ten-fold in a very short amount of time. I think that without this exercise, I would still be a bit slower at working digitally.


My first go at ISPD. I took a picture specifically for this on Halloween just a day before. My father-in-law had this badass DSLR camera, and we had all sorts of interesting lighting situtions to toy with so I decided... it was time!


As you can see, I quickly dove onto ISPD's challenge. I've been doing it every year thus far since 2015. I can't tell you honestly if it began that early, but I would (and still do) use it as my skill gauge for the year.


I really loved the painterly aesthetic that I was developing around this time - there's something about this era that I actually continually channel to this day. This is about as close as I try to get with my current paint technique as I can. I can honestly say that this was about the time that I started watching Oil Painting demos on YouTube and began to channel that vibe.

A lot of people have asked me over the years why I don't simply oil paint, since I always rant about it. Well, there are lots of reasons, time and money being the main ones, but I feel the need to channel all of the traditional techniques into my digital work - I even made that brush pack long ago that I still use to this day, with some assistance from Deharme's brush pack. These two packs combined have made for the best painterly feeling that I keep on pushing everyday.


This one was definitely all about speed over anything else. I think that I had just remembered at the last minute, post-Inktober, that ISPD was a thing, so I jumped quickly, grabbed my phone, took a picture, and awwwaaayyy we go. I'm not 100% sold on the painting here as it feels very plasticy and overly digital compared to my usual work. It's not to say that I didn't find something interesting about the way I worked on this piece or even the idea behind it; I can simply say that it was a very different feeling going into this one.


And then we come to this years. This year was actually the first year that I'd had access to a tablet that you could actually draw on - so I'm still trying to get used to the feeling of that. That's not anything that I can use as an excuse though, as it's important to continually keep pushing every day. I just know that I drew this one stupidly fast, and kept things very loose.

Lastly... the fact that I had to hold my table at an angle... actually skewed the image upward as I worked, so at the last minute I held it upright and just stretched the image toward the top to regain the right anatomy. Inside track notes there haha!

All of this is really to go on about the fact that I think it's important to not only self-reflect, but to also take a step back every once in awhile and really gauge where you've come and where you're going.
Just always... KEEP ON PUSHING!


Follow Mat @artofmatk

Follow Ash @ashley.storyteller