So, Wanderlust week three’s reflections lesson was a literal one: take a selfie and paint a self-portrait. And… that’s not going to happen. At least not now. I do want to have a go at creating a vaguely realistic portrait and I will pencil it in to be done later in the year. But not right now.
I’m not a fan of faces and figures in art. I can appreciate the skill and artistry and will happily watch Portrait Artist of the Year to see how the artists work, but I don’t create figurative or portrait art and I don’t have it on my walls. And I hate photos of myself, always have, they just never look anything like me.
I suspect that has a lot to do with my inability to visualise things — I don’t have complete aphantasia, but I cannot picture anything in enough detail to examine it mentally. For example, if I try to conjure up an image of someone I know, I will get a flash of a particular photograph of them in my mind’s eye but if I try to focus on any detail it just disappears. Or if I’m trying to come up with a composition, whether it’s for a card or a painting, I can mentally go through the steps of assembling it, but I won’t be able to visualise the finished layout. So I can come up with ideas, but I have to reach for a notepad and pencil to see how they’ll actually look.
However, I am not face-blind, I do recognise people and faces and know who they are (putting names to them can be an issue sometimes, but that’s a different problem). I would make the absolute worst witness:
“Would you recognise the perpetrator?”
“Can you describe them?”
Me: “Not a chance.”
Not only can I not visualise my own face, but photographs never match up with whatever mental pattern I do have (though I can recognise myself in pictures) so they never look like I think they should.
If that was it, I would power on through, bite the bullet, and do the self-portrait. After all, I managed to do the abstract portrait lesson in Wanderlust 2019 with exactly the same issues (though I hadn’t come across the term aphantasia at that point). But with my current health problems I have been on steroids for almost three months now and the side effects mean that I genuinely do not look like myself. It’s one thing glancing in the mirror in the morning, but taking a selfie… photos always look less flattering than the mirror… I just couldn’t do it. On a positive note though, I am now slowly reducing the steroids with the aim of stopping them completely and that should help, though it won’t be a quick process.
So, no self-portrait now. Self-portrait later. When I look more like myself again.