For three years, I drew myself every day. In sickness and in health, camping in the mountains and camped in my partner’s hospital room, at home in the middle of the day and in hotel bathrooms in the middle of the night, more regularly than I brushed my teeth, I drew myself.
After the first few months, friends asked how long I planned to continue, and I replied as long as it’s interesting.
Months became years. People learned of the project, checked in on it for awhile, got caught up in other things, were surprised to find months or years later that, yes, I was still doing it, still drawing myself every day. On the second anniversary I started to wonder about changing it in some way, but I continued just the same.
Halfway through the third year, I started thinking it was time. But we humans so love round numbers, and I didn’t really know how I wanted to change it, so I decided to go for a full three years. And then, on March 15th, the third anniversary arrived, and it really was time, and it ended. It ended as it began, with a simple green line drawing of tousled hair and mock turtleneck, large glasses and double chin.
It ended as it began except… the world and I have both changed in these three years.
It ended as it began, except I’m much more facile now; the drawings have a different ease. I’m much more confident – not worried about the muse leaving me, knowing that if I draw every day I’ll get some duds and some beauties, and neither matters very much, because it’s the process of engaging with the visual world which compels me, not the results.
It ended as it began, except the first drawing was done with magic markers on paper and the last one was done with my finger on my iPod Touch using the Brushes App. The first one was done staring in a mirror, the last one was done staring at a live video feed on my computer. Technology didn’t change my imagery or my interests – but it sure made it easier to keep drawing every day, no matter where I was, no matter what was happening.
It ended. . . . and something new started. To celebrate the end of three years of drawing myself, I decided to throw a virtual Portrait Party and invite other artists to allow me to draw them, and to draw each other, from photographs. I sent out the invites a week before the Daily Portrait Project ended, hoping to have a few photos to start drawing from when the Daily Portrait Project was over. In that week, more than 60 artists joined the party and made over 200 drawings of each other, including two dozen of me. Tomorrow I enter the fray.
I can’t wait to get started, and to let you know about the experience in these pages next month.
Julia Kay first described her Daily Portrait Project here a year ago, and last fall shared vivid memories of many Septembers. Since then, the Bay Area artist, data analyst and Teacher of the Alexander Technique has seen one of her portraits in a Chicago show featured in the New York Times. Kay agreed earlier this year to check in with us once a month with a new selection from her work chosen just for WVFC, and to let us know what new directions continue to grow out of her process. Stay tuned as Kay moves beyond the “self-portrait” concept to something entirely new.— Ed.