My Earliest Self Portrait

I haven’t made many self portraits lately, but I did make several of them during my art school days.

"Self Portrait with Apron" © 1990 Ayn Hanna, 60" x 48", mixed media

The image above is a large mixed media self portrait drawing I did in grad school. I spent so many hours every day in the print studio back then wearing my printmaker’s apron that I decided to incorporate the actual apron itself into this drawing, gluing it directly to the paper surface.

I recently attended Nicola  Jarvis‘ visiting artist’s lecture at the CSU Fibers Department.  Nicola is an artist and deputy course leader at Royal School of Needlework, Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, England.  She is a master of embroidery stitching and presented many wonderful examples of her students’ work as well as shared many stories and images of her own work.

While having moved on to other subject matter now, earlier in her career Nicola spent ~20 years focused on doing self portraits, and some of her work has been focused on her early childhood.

Listening to Nicola’s stories and seeing some of her self portraits led me to reminiscing a bit about the self portraits I have made, and thinking about the earliest self portrait that I can remember doing.

Thanks to my wonderful Mom, who saved just about every piece of art I ever made as a kid and can still find the whole lot of them (it’s nice to feel so loved!), I do have a copy of the earliest self portrait I can remember making.

"Self Portrait" © Ayn Hanna, ink on paper

I believe this portrait was from my early Jr. high school days and vaguely remember that our teacher’s instructions were to draw a picture of ourselves and then underneath it, we were to make 2 columns and write lists of the personality traits we felt we had that were “Great” on the left and the traits we felt we “Needed to Work on Improving” on the right.  (Hmmm, now wouldn’t that be a fun exercise to do with our family, friends, or co-workers?  We could probably learn a lot about how those that we interact with see themselves….)

For this exercise, we had to draw ourselves from memory, sitting at our desks in the classroom….no mirrors available to be able to draw from direct observation.  I remember closing my eyes and trying to visualize that image of myself I’d see in the bathroom mirror every morning.  I also remember being really conscious about having lots of freckles – so those are freckles not chicken pox on my portrait.  And according to my lists, looks like I’ve always been a fierce competitor and tired since about age 13.

How about you?  Do you remember your first self portrait?  Do you still have it?  What memories do you have about the first time you drew yourself?


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