The idea of the self portrait has changed and shifted in the ways it functions throughout art history. We have seen it evolve from the earliest known representation that existed in 1433, a painting by Jan van Eyck. Since, the genre has become widely popular after the Early Renaissance era where many artists began creating depictions of one’s self as subject matter for paintings, drawings, as well as sculptures. Contemporarily this is utilized in all mediums and provides a voice for individual expression in art. The usage of self portraiture has been seen as a character study and has grown and become a direct portrayal of not only the artist’s aesthetic choices but a declaration of emotion, reflection as well as an exploration of one’s inner workings.
A forced growth
By Aaron White
In the low lighting of a lamp and candles in the late evening often is when I find my inspiration and also the time I find I have no energy to paint. A couple times I fell asleep sitting at my easel. I chose this time to reflect on the day, much like a diary, I painted a self portrait once per day each day of December. As I started I wasn’t exactly sure where the project would take me, I quickly found myself striving to achieve a different result for each painting as one tends to get bored of repetition.
At times throughout these works there is a clear presence of mental and physical exhaustion alongside personal growth and learning to paint portraits was a goal of 2020. With everyone experiencing such different & new challenges, I found myself at the point where sleeping and dreaming was my favourite place to be. Often I try to capture that dream as a state in my work. Keeping positive with the new world situations seems as though a forced growth begins to blossom.
This project is a series of daily self-portrait paintings surrounding a larger portrait piece. I displayed my personal process of moving forwards when it comes to heartbreak, emotional exhaustion, anxiety, and depression. This body of work explores what it means to live through personal growth.
I saved the palettes from these smaller portraits to incorporate into the larger portrait to capture the highs and lows of my emotions, and to reclaim that image of myself through my true, daily experiences that makes one whole.
Through working with my mentors on this project I feel as though it gave me an opportunity for a different approach. I noticed this specifically through conversations as well as working directly with them that different styles appear throughout.
Roughly 4 years ago my journey with painting really began when I was gifted a set of oils. After practicing landscapes and landscapes,
The world has turned and left me here – Weezer
A major inspiration has always been listening to all kinds of music constantly.
As I sit with a blank canvas, music to fill the room, I feel as if my paint brush is being guided, or as if there is something that has the be released from mind to canvas. Lots of my art is created from the mind. I find it like a sword battle that one has to keep fighting to see victory.
I want to take this chance to thank Quest Art & RBC Foundation
My family & friends
Ross & Joel for mentoring the project
Abigail & Erin
Virginia, Paul, & Joseph Eichhorn
Northeastbeats – “Move & create bound to be great”
And so so many more, all those who’ve help me grow and make it all possible.
Statement from Mentor Ross Skoggard:
There is a wonderful object, handcrafted out of cedar. It is about 8 inches tall and ten inches wide and 4 inches deep. It was four rails spanning the four corners on which are 18 moveable pegs. This object was presented to me by Aaron White the first time Virginia Eichhorn brought him over to meet me. Aaron explained the object of his own design and manufacturer was a rack for storing artist’s paint brushes between painting sessions so they don’t dry out. It looks like a cross between a Danish modern loom and an abacus and it's too pretty for the studio so I keep it in my living room.
This piece says a lot about Aaron and his approach to his art. It is ingenious, well- crafted and original. It reveals that he takes a strongly artisanal approach to his work. It identifies and solves a problem all painters encounter with the mindset of an ouvrier.
The second or third time we met he challenged me to take a more “hand’s on” approach to my practice by inviting me to make a portrait of him using no brushes, just my fingers.
The resulting portrait is like nothing I’ve ever painted before. It is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and I wouldn’t have thought of doing anything like it if not for my experience of working with Aaron.
I knew from the beginning that working with Aaron was going to be far from a one way street. Whatever I passed on to him in terms of a traditional approach to materials and composition, he was going to more than compensate me with his focussed and workmanlike dedication to process.
I have been amazed to watch his heroic self- portrait project progress. Aaron trusts his viewer to get it and when they don’t, to take another hard look and maybe challenge some of their own assumptions of what a work of art should or can be.
I thank you for the opportunity to participate in this stimulating project.
Statement from Mentor Joel Richardson:
Working with Aaron was a unique experience. A skateboarding kid from a small town who didn't want to leave for the big city was intriguing. I celebrated his desire to use art in exploring who he is and who he wants to be. It is not always easy to be an artist, 7 days a week 365 days a year.
The series of self-portraits Aaron tackled I hope pushed him out of his comfort zone. It forced him to go back to the well day after day, looking himself in the eye, trying to see further or deeper. He stepped up to the challenge in creating every day for a month. His accomplishment was admirable, and honest. The paintings were full of energy and showed an obvious likeness of the painter.
I am interested to see what Aaron takes from this experience going forward. The gallery and mentors gave form to the process, a form that Aaron will now need to create on his own. I encourage him to continue his journey, and I would very much like to see what would come from continuing such hard and focused work.
About the RBC Art Incubator and Residency Programme:
The Arts Incubator provides access to arts-based learning through producing compelling artistic experiences for the participants and the audiences. The programme includes long and short-term residences, workshops and other forms of creative engagement. Our goal through-out this programme is to create opportunities for emerging artists to have a rich, sustained experience with other artists, to provide mentorship opportunities, and to allow for inter-cultural understanding which will foster the facilitation of complex interactions that transcend differences and which will go beyond the traditional expectations of passive art interactions. Through this programme artists will be able to upgrade their discipline based artistic competencies, and, will develop new ways to artistically engage with their audience.