Beaver Self Portrait
I am inspired largely by the “natural” world. Throughout my work, I tend to explore the relationship between the natural and built environment. During my years as an undergrad, I have come to associate myself with a beaver. My love for the Canadian wilderness, interest in outdoor adventure, hard work ethic, craftiness, openness to challenges, and history of travel all closely reflect a beaver’s character. Through these paintings, I intended to work with the dominant traits of a beaver and find ways to further represent myself by combining objects that I strongly identify with. Collectively, these paintings do exactly that and reflect unusual settings, which are left up to the viewer to interpret their larger meaning and make connections. It is not a straightforward representation of myself, yet nonetheless a “self-portrait”.
I started off by brainstorming which lead me to texturing my canvas using modeling paste and trying out a new surface. From here, as I do with all my paintings, I sketched out the basic shapes for each which I later filled with general undertones. By no means am I ever confined to my original sketches as my images transform over time as I respond on canvas, mixed my acrylic paints, and incorporate different techniques throughout the process. Once I lay down the basis, I start to build on top, layering my paints. Following, I paint the highlights and shadows to develop depth. I have a keen eye for carefully working in the details which follows next. I particularly enjoy exploring and creating implied textures, playing with lights and darks to bring about a sense of tactile feel to my work. In addition, I explored a number of different painting techniques throughout these three paintings. These include brush painting, using a found object (the tip of my file on my nail clippers to bring out some white lines), finger painting, dry brushing, and stippling. While I had planned to work on one painting at a time, I soon found myself applying paint to all three canvases concurrently in order to unify the colours. The use of a variety of image development strategies, in particular distortion, exaggeration, point of view, and metamorphosis further adds a unique character to my paintings and has helped to strengthen the representation of myself through various objects. I combined my appreciation of canoeing represented by a paddle with a beaver’s tail; my dark black rimmed glasses and my blue eyes with a beaver’s face; a tent illustrating my love for camping with a beaver lodge; and pencils with gnawed trees, representing my work ethic and passion to become an elementary school teacher in the near future.
I feel that I have successfully related to and reflected my personalities and character around a beaver. Instead of heavily depending and referring to photographs of beavers, I decided that I would illustrate the beaver and its landscape as I see them, recapping my personal experiences with beavers and their habitats. As a result, I limited myself to my interpretation of how a beaver looked, stressing some of its more dominant features. My paintings stand to reflect that a “self-portrait” need not be a straightforward representation and can instead be made up of objects that indirectly represent who I am. Rather than taking a realistic approach, I feel I really incorporated myself in these paintings by approaching them in an unusual way and by combining images together. The morphing of images strengthens the idea of closely being depicted by a beaver which stands to illustrate who I am as an individual. These paintings collectively illustrate my past experiences, my present love, and my future endeavours.