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  • Writer's pictureTina Ritchie

Self Portraits Through the Years

Over the years, we all change…right? I’m not sure about you, but I feel like a much different person today than the Tina of last year, or the year before. So, enjoy this exposition of Tinas! 

Artists throughout history have found creative ways to paint their own portraits. Each attempt to capture our own likeness is an opportunity for self expression—a small window into our souls. Beyond the mere painting of one’s own face, many artworks reflect aspects of the artist even if their likeness is nowhere to be seen. In this way I have painted many, many self-portraits over the years without labeling them as such. 

There have been drastic changes in my approach to the “self portrait” over time. The colors throughout them bear similarities, with the schemes tending to lean towards primaries (red, yellow and blue). Though the story of each may not be clear to the viewer, they all read clearly to me in the recollection of whatever season they were painted in. 

Self Portrait I (2016) Linoleum Block Print, 12”x12”

My first official “self portrait” was created in 2016, in the printmaking class that inspired me to attend art school. I abstracted the figures within this portrait to obscure the intentions behind it, as it was not an especially good moment in my life.

This portrait portrays the relationship between depression and destructive habits. The self-indulgent, careless self is uncovered and unashamed, emitting smoke from a cigarette that shrouds the outer edges of the composition. The depressed, self-loathing figure on the left is crouched in shame, her tears flowing into the point of her paintbrush. The tone and story of this piece would be a recurring aspect of my life for many years following.

Self Portrait II (2020), Oil and Acrylic on Canvas, 24”x30”

My next self portrait did not come until early 2020 (pre-pandemic) when I was prompted to create it for a figure drawing class. Using acrylics and oil on canvas, I revisited the theme from my first portrait to restate the previous message in a new way.

While the first portrait depicted a smoky space, this piece depicts a watery garden. The roses grown in this swampy forest seem precious to the woman below, and dispensable to the woman above. Water flows in steady streams from one woman’s eyes and the other woman’s wounds, and the cycle of creation and destruction is ongoing.

Self Portrait III (2022) Oil on Canvas, 18”x24”

My third self portrait was also oil on canvas, painted in 2022. The dramatic shift from my previous abstraction into full-blown representational reflects a desire to paint with more focus on realism. Although I look at this piece now and see many flaws, it brought me great pride in the time I created it.

This portrait showed that I was no longer afraid to paint myself literally. After graduating from RMCAD, overcoming the struggles of 2020, and getting married, I had become a much healthier version of myself. The conflicted, depressed, destructive self had lost her hold on me; the strong, confident, noble self had begun to find her way.

Self Portrait IV (2023) Oil on Canvas, 9”x12”

My portrait in 2023 was painted in the midst of deep-work; I was prepping for a gallery show and creating a full graphic novel. The elevated skill shown in this painting is obvious when compared with the previous works, and my likeness is much closer than before. Mirroring the third portrait, this piece depicts me with regality and nobility. It is another reflection of growing appreciation for my own strengths, and honing of my painting skills.

Self Portrait V (2024) Watercolor on Paper, 11”x14”

The final self portrait was painted just last week, in April 2024. Returning to watercolors after a long time away from them, it does show a lack of finesse. Regardless, I am happy with how it turned out and was invested in every moment of creating it. Returning to watercolor felt like delving back into my past selves—I want to go deeper into that soon.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my self portraits through time!

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