Sunday, September 16, 2012

Self Portrait: Process Work

Over a span of 3 weeks, I slowly created this self portrait in the downtime I had. I knew I wanted to create a process post on my blog, so I made sure I remembered to stop and take pictures in the midst of my scribbling and frantic watercolouring.

This was a very personal work for me. When I'm allowed to have creative freedom, I almost always reach for darker imagery... it just feels natural for me. I still have a lot of unfilled goals in my personal life.

This work is created based on two quotes: 
"Hell is empty and all the devils are here." 
-- William Shakespeare
"I've learned love is like a brick, you can build a house or sink a dead body."
-- Lady Gaga

I started with a sketch, using a variety of references for myself and the birds. Before I laid down any watercolours (aka "the scary part"), I did a few digital colour tests to figure out what direction and palette I wanted to work in.

I had settled on the fourth colour test, and broke out the watercolours, laying down light washes, building up tones. I worked over the pencil lines of the sketch, giving general light and dark tones to build up the form.

After I had laid in my watercolours, I went back over the original sketch and rendered the features: hair, eyes, feathers, etc. This took quite some time - especially that hair! After most of the pencil work had been done, I went back in and hit a couple spots with more watercolour, but not much.

Finally, I scanned and pulled this into Photoshop and hit it with some Levels, but I did very minimal editing. I did also scan in subtle watercolour textures and overlaid them on the orange "bricks", which I felt gave the work a little more depth.

And the finished piece: (larger version)

{ all art in this post © erin mcmanness 2012 - please credit if shared }

"I think the most important thing for a young person starting out is that they should only try to make work that they’re interested in, and that is true and honest to who they are. If you look at the careers of anyone that’s made it or become successful, they’ve all started out making work that they believed in, that they were interested in. And they did it obsessively and compulsively, and so people started noticing. So instead of, say, catering to a certain audience or pleasing someone else they should just do work that they feel like is the most interesting to them, at the time. Even though it might not be accepted or noticed in the beginning, they should just keep doing it until it becomes undeniable."
-- from a great interview with one of my favourites, James Jean 

 Thank you for reading!
Hope this was interesting :)


  1. The sketches are already amazing, and the final artwork is incredibly beautiful!

  2. You are so talented! All parts of the process look amazing, which is great because a lot of people have a weak spot along the way.

    That last quote is nice, too. I'm in the same boat, I only make/sell things I'd wear myself.

    1. Aww, thanks so much, Paige! I'm glad the whole process comes through clearly :)

      Yea, there's a lot of pressure with an art career to slowly slip into what pays the bills. But I think it's extremely important to find time and make work that fulfills us personally :)

  3. Fantastic piece. I love the quotes that you associated with it. And I LOVE the process pictures! It's so hard to remember to do that!

    1. Thank you! I have been thinking over those quotes for some time, knowing that I wanted to do something with them :)

  4. WOW, gorgeous work, erin! and i love the last quote. it's something we must all be reminded of! take care! <3 :-)

    1. Thank you so much, Irene! And thank you for tweeting about it, you're so sweet :) I do love that last quote - sometimes it's hard to keep in mind when there are bills to pay!

  5. I have to say this is a really inspiring post. I think it may say even more then you intended even. I know self portraits are something a lot of younger artists feel bogged down by but you captured the importance of them. It isn't just about an available model but remember your part in your work and the harsh honesty that can go with it.

  6. great watercoulour! i totally dig those scary ravens with multiple eyes. scary but also really mesmerizing... i love the way you use watercolours and create so much depth and texture.

    want to see more of yours personal works! please, share it with world.

  7. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing your process. I love "behind the scenes"!

  8. C'est magnifique! Seems you got inspired by Mucha's work :-) I love it


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