Following The Artist and Leisure Painter magazines' Self-Portrait competition, I was asked to write the story behind my painting for an article - which is published in the current issue (May) of Leisure Painter.
Here is the full length version of my blog (Photo credit: POL):
‘A Shadow of My Former Self’
by Andrea Hook
Oil on Linen canvas
16” wide x 20” deep (40 cms wide by 50 cms deep)
On taking up the self-portrait challenge, I chose oils as I hadn’t used them for portraiture before. I also wanted to do a conceptual piece so I knew an appropriate title would be crucial. The title came to me first in the end. Someone posted an old photograph from their school days on Facebook, with a shadowy figure just visible through the classroom window. I quipped ‘Who’s that in the background – a shadow of your former self??’ and was about to post it when I thought ‘No, I’m keeping that!’ An image began to take shape, but I needed just the right photograph of myself as a child to fit the missing piece and a quick scan through the old family album, unfortunately, yielded nothing suitable.
A while later I was attending a family event. It was the sort of do where, later in the evening, an elderly great aunt usually produces an envelope of black and white photographs from her handbag and circulates them around the room. We weren’t disappointed. A photograph of me progressed along our table, and I instantly saw the distinctive silhouette that the bow in my hair made. I had found my shadow. My image was complete.
The next weekend I asked my son to take some photographs of me – I knew that after doing the usual Sunday chores - washing, cooking the roast and clearing up – I would have exactly the right expression on my face that I was looking for! I pre-warned him I wasn’t going to smile (so don’t make me!), flattened my hair in the mirror (made a mental note to apologise to my hairdresser later) grabbed a huge old jumper from the back of the airing cupboard and took a seat. I chose the kitchen table as it is the scene of my daily drama – cyclically exchanging tablemats and plates for table top easel and palettes. I present the photo of the younger me to the viewer to consider this child – with all the hopes and dreams of what she would be as an adult….and I present myself as an adult, wondering who this girl is and what exactly her dreams were. It is a study of the passing of time and the age-old frustration of trying to balance the things you want to do against all the things you have to do first. The clock dominates. It is late in the day; I am (literally and figuratively) ‘up against time’.
At face value, it really does appear to be a fairly negative narrative, but I found painting it surprisingly cathartic. Contrary to the implication that I have in some way lost more than I have gained over time, I found plenty to consider and appreciate in my adulthood – countless things to be grateful for and personal goals achieved that I should remind myself of more often, over and above the daily distraction of white noise. So am I indeed ‘A Shadow of My Former Self?’ Well - if some of my childhood aspirations haven’t come to fruition, it is simply because I haven’t achieved them….yet!