Portraits of the artist in a ________?

For no particular reason, perhaps because I was bored, I found myself copying a picture by Sickert on Saturday – and drew myself into it:

I posted the drawing on Instagram. Then the idea popped into my head (who knows how that ever happens?) that I might do another, but using an image by a different artist.

I googled Picasso, and the first picture my eye was drawn to was Guernica. I drew myself and my schnauzer Peanut, then posted that one too:

I was enjoying this, and know just about enough about artistic practice to follow what I’m most drawn to.

Next up was a Millais painting I’ve always loved. This time, instead of replacing one of the figures in the original, I just added my self-portrait standing in the middle:

I seemed to be stuck in the late 1800s / early 1900s. Wanting to shake things up a little, I looked for something earlier. Somehow (dunno how) I found the Velasquez portrait of Pope Innocent X that Francis Bacon famously reinterpreted before me:

For my next self-portrait, I settled on another favourite artist from you-know-when, Toulouse Lautrec:

And last night I “did” Modigliani, whose portraits have always struck me as beautiful and full of grace. I reckoned this would be a big challenge, because a) his portraits are generally of attractive young women, often b) naked, and c) usually located in spare – which is to say, anonymous – settings.

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d pull it off. I wasn’t going to draw myself naked: it wouldn’t be beautiful and graceful, just weird. And the lack of recognisable setting troubled me. All I could use, to conjure Modigliani, was his colour palette and the typically elongated head and neck.

I was in two minds about posting this one on Instagram, because whatever its merits it’s not recognisably a copy of a particular, well-known Modigliani painting.

But I posted it anyway, and it drew a very interesting comment, which I’ve cut and pasted (along with replies) below this picture:

Oddly enough it is different to modigliani and seems like your style. You are long and thin anyway. I really like this picture as it is pleasing as well as descriptive. Why not try doing a few portraits like this. Beatles and oasis.

@roberttwigger thank you. Quite right. It’s not sufficiently anchored in the peripheral detail to conjure Modigliani. And I am as you describe! I like it too though, so I posted it anyway…

@jpflintoff the colours are. But I think your version is actually better than a straight parody. That was my point. By trying to do his style you liberated something that works for you.

@roberttwigger ah, I see. Yes I think you are right – and I think that has been an effect of each of the drawings in this series. It’s either liberated or internalised something – or both

@jpflintoff they do say it is the way to learn…copy, copy, copy…then fly!


UPDATE, late 2021

I carried on creating these portraits, which for convenience I call Potaias.

And I recorded these two livestreams exclusively for patrons / members of my Adequate Projects. They took place on the same day. If you watch them both, you can see how my thinking about this project developed / didn’t:


UPDATE, mid 2022

I have been writing words to go along with each Potaia. I recorded another livestream for patron / members, in which I read some of those words out loud. I kept being interrupted by Siri on my desktop computer.