Self-portrait – an exercise for first-year students

The task is executed in three stages. The main technique is ossa sepia. The idea of the exercise refers to Picasso's cycle of lithographs that depict about a dozen variants of the image of a bull. All the three stages of work are done on the same matrix (stone).

The first stage, (the initial phase of transformation) consists in realistic drawing – particular attention is paid to light modeling, proportions, gradations of the grey, the diversification of the texture, all of which should agree with the student's individual imagery and style.

The work with form performed in each of the following stages consists in a more synthetic and abstract interpretation of the initial material. The process is accompanied by a change in the relations between black and white. The exercise is based on the reversal of a typical situation (i.e. building form by adding black), it is not based on positive drawing. Students begin their work by confronting the uniformly black matrix on which they work to prepare their self-portraits. The drawing comes into being in the process of adding patches of white. The task helps in understanding form and teaches thinking discipline (the difficulty being the impossibility to undo a previous gesture and paint over the uncovered patches) and makes subsequent transformations to be increasingly abstract and expressive.
Exercises prepared by:
Piotr Kołakowski, 1st year – 2010/11