Saturday, March 1, 2014

Book Club: Mixed-Media Self-Portraits by Cate Coulacos Prato

Deb Prewitt of Blue Twig Studios started a book club in Jan. It meets at her shop on the 4th Friday of the month, followed by an online discussion with those of us that do not live close enough to go to her shop in Colorado.
Mixed-Media Self-Portraits
by Cate Caulacos Prato.

Some of the questions addressed are:  Make a self-portrait? Scrutinize myself? Re-create all my flaws in paint, collage, or fabric? Does the self-portrait have to be me?  Do I have to show my face? My body? Can I reveal myself in some way other than a physical representation? Children do this easily with innocence and pride. They are eager to show us their drawings with smiling faces, or red, angry faces, or fat bodies or thin bodies. They draw what they feel so honestly and without embarrassment. Why is it so hard for us (me)?

Many famous artists drew self-portraits. The ones we’re probably most familiar with are Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, and Rembrandt Van Rijn.  

            Berthe Morisot said “It is important to express oneself…
     provided the feelings are real and taken from your own experience.” 

            Henry David Thoreau said “I should not talk so much about myself if there    
          were anybody else whom I knew so well.”

Self-portraits tell a story. They tell who we are at that moment in time,  what past experiences have shaped us into who we are now, and/or who we would like to become, etc. They can be whimsical; serious; therapeutic.

The main thing I took away from this first chapter is to learn to be myself – accept who I am, where I am, and just be creative – just paint/draw/write/journal…..  Recapture that joy of drawing we had as children. Just do it!

Last year, my quilt guild (the Prickly Piecers) did a self-portrait challenge. Approximately 40% of the members participated. One member did a triangular shaped profile with leaves and flowers to for eyes, nose, and mouth and an abundance of flora for her hair. She had been a landscape artist in a previous life and is now an art quilter, so she combined the two. Another did a whimsical green witch – she is 80 years old and figured at her age, she could do what she wanted. A few members took a photo of themselves and used the posterize filter with 4-5 values in Photoshop to create a portrait in fabric. One even won a Judge's Choice Award at a quilt show with his! Another member did several story blocks with each block telling of a milestone in her life, such as birth, childhood, marriage, motherhood, career, and retirement, and now artist. Another member created a map with all the places she has lived in her life that have made her who she is today and added brooches and pins that had meaning from each place she lived.  Another person created a very dark quilt, representing a dark tunnel, to a door in the center that opened to light.  A dragon led a wagon with a book in it along a path through the tunnel heading to the door. She is the dragon (as she loves dragons) and has been in a very dark place the last couple years of her life, but sees the light at the end of the tunnel. The book contained memories of her life that have kept her sane through the dark tunnel. This quilt was the most touching of the quilts.

I painted a wholecloth quilt using a photo from when I was in my 30s (as I feel that age mentally, but I'm actually in my 50's ...physically, some days it's closer to 90ish! LOL!). I drew Zentangles in my multi-colored hair (actually black with a few well-earned gray strands) to stand for my creativity and artistry. I painted a small dragon in the air above my head, as I love dragons and think of them as benevolent, wise creatures. I added a necklace with a dragon pendant, too.  (You can see the whole process on my blog here.)
"Me, Myself, and I" - 16" x 20" whole cloth painted quilt
designed and quilted by Lynnita Knoch
It was hard to get started, but once I did, I enjoyed it immensely. Everyone who participated in the challenge had fun creating their self-portrait. They all said the hard part was getting started. The other hard part was sharing it in front of everyone.

I think doing a self-portrait is definitely worth the time and effort to do. I will continue to create self-portraits (now that I have done one and the earth didn’t stop or fall apart!) periodically to show where I’m at in my life at the time. 

Go make a self-portrait!!

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