Tag Archives: van Gogh

Self Portrait – Painting the Artist

Today Bill Barrell reflects on the painting of a self portrait, instead of the observations of the world, an observation of the self….

Self Portrait of Bill Barrell
Self Portrait

–  It is always a good idea to have a good look at one’s self once in a while. Rembrandt, Picasso and van Gogh were at it constantly. Why do they do it? Well, because artists are always searching for the truth. I believe that by looking into their own eyes they can tell if they are still on the right track. I think Rembrandt never looked unsure in his self-portraits. Even when he hit hard times, he still looked sure of himself.

Picasso, on the other hand, I don’t know. To me, he always looked a bit surprised that he could still come up with something totally original and yet still catch himself not cheating. I had a friend who at one time owned the painting “Yo Picasso”, Picasso’s portrait of himself when he was about twenty-two, which was done in a realist style.  My friend and his wife had it hanging in their breakfast nook. I visited often and loved to sit across from that piece and just absorb it.  Picasso stood looking out with his coal black eyes as if to say “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.  My friend once showed me where he and his brother had thrown darts at it when they were kids. He told me that they  hadn’t made a habit of the dart game and knew what they had done was wrong, so they had found some shoe polish and filled the holes.  That same painting was later sold for $47.8 million dollars – holes and all.

Van Gogh looks out of his painting with such intensity – as if to say here is my soul, take a good squint at it, I’m laying it all out for you.

It is not easy to look through that mirror and into your soul. In my portrait, I look a little wonky – as if to say I am seeing what I’m seeing and being a little terrified by it. –

Disjointed Feeling

Bill Barrell talks about how a painting can sometimes surprise you in its revelations of feeling and insights. “Coming Apart” is a painting depicting a struggle with just such revelations.

Coming Apart
Coming Apart

 –  Every once in a while, I have this  feeling of being disjointed. I was not feeling particularly disjointed while painting this work, but it was a work that I was struggling with when I began.  Some shape or form appeared in it that reminded me of the feeling of being disjointed.  I have always felt that a painting can lead one into ones own subconsious. It is important to be aware of this. Give it free rein and allow the work to take you there.

Painting is all about capturing and retaining feeling.  The viewer often can relate to works very strongly. As an example, one painting  that I react to is Vincent van Gogh’s, “Irises”. I have grown irises and when they burst forth in the spring in a blaze of periwinkle, I look at them and wish they they could stay in that state. But of course, they don’t. Van Gogh managed to come close to retaining that deep feeling with that painting. He captured the essence of the moment. 

This painting does the same for me. –