The Art of Derek Dohren

painting, writing, photography


Self(8) - Falling

Every now and then I have to satisfy the urge to complete a self portrait. This is my eighth. My mood when I painted this was not good and I felt very insecure about my future. I wanted to depict a person in turmoil, perhaps tumbling and disoriented.

step 1

I decided on the correct pose for the painting and using a photograph as reference I printed out the image, roughly at half the size the finished painting would be. 


I put a one square centimetre grid over the photograph and transferred the image onto the canvas using a grid twice the size. I used watercolour pencils to sketch in the outline of the body. This grid system is useful when absolute accuracy is required.

step 2

I blocked the background of the image in with a mix of yellow ochre and terracotta and began painting in the details of my glasses using various mixes of Payne's Grey and Titanium White. The 'black' of the watercolour pencil also melded in with the paint. 

 My hair is distinctly 'yellow ochre' at this point and it makes me look blonde. The facial features are not exactly right but they can be tidied up as I go on.

step 3

Ok, now we're taking shape. I have coloured the t-shirt with the same two paints from the tube - Payne's Grey and Titanium White. I have used a lemon yellow for the cuffs and collar and again it's picked up a little of the watercolour pencil's darkness which is fine.

I've begun to put the skin tones down. Yes it's coarse at first but it's about getting the right colour values in first, delineating where the lights and shadows are. Refinement comes next.

step 4

The skin tones are much more realistic now and the eyes, nose and mouth are better defined.

I have worked shadows into the t-shirt to hopefully give a better rendition of the folds of the cotton. The broken stripey pattern helps the effect I think.

step 5

More tweaking of the facial features. The look of fear and apprehension had been lost but reworking the mouth and eyes brings it back. I'm at a loss over the background and sleep overnight wondering what to do with it.

I decide to leave this as it is. The lack of any reference points behind the figure adds to the sense of disorientation. Where is this person and how far is he falling? I guess I don't know.

A more detailed version of this painting can be viewed in the gallery.

Acrylic on paper, 50cm x 40cm

For sale - £200 (unframed)

Paint some memories of your stay here in Granada. Contact me for details.

currently in the gallery ...