A tonal self-portrait

This self-portrait project began with a blurry phone selfie, as I channelled my inner Lenin (or is it Stalin?), gazing into the glorious future of the revolution. Note the awesome yellow wall behind me.

The next stage was to glitch the photo by reducing the palette from 70,000 colours to just 15. This produces some interesting effects as the programme tries to balance the number of hues required with the number of shades required. This is followed by many hours smoothing out the colours into blocks. I liked this effect so much that I made the resultant digital painting into my profile picture. And look at that wall!

Next, I converted the picture to black and white then further reduced the palette to just five shades. So much detail is lost that the subject image is starting to become unrecognisable. The mind has to work harder to process the missing parts and fill in the gaps. Note how the highlight along the left side of my face is the same tone as the background, yet the eye insists that my head is complete.

The final work is a painting on paper, rendering the five tones with different degrees of diluted acrylic paint with a sixth cheated from the off-white colour of the paper. I increased the amount of negative space because I like negative space and also to make the image almost life-size. This has the added effect of providing more room for the “glorious future”.

Matti, Self-portrait, 2019, graphite and acrylic on paper, 611 x 430cm

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