Why do artists paint self portraits? There are many reasons: Who else will stay still as long as the artist wants? Who else is as available at all hours? Who else can we satisfy as easily regarding the results? It was a combination of all of these - though mostly the last one - that led me to try this. I wanted to tackle a face, and I really was concerned about doing this to anyone else, especially this large (almost 18 inches from top of hair to tip of beard).
I think it's a good likeness, better than I've done before. My drawing skills are better than they were the last time I tried a sketch of my face. That other exercise was done under duress (most of me resisted while my inner artist insisted). This image came more naturally. I think this captures the family nose, the Magyar features, the dominant mono-brow, my salt-and-pepper hair and beard. This is how I see myself - and that's another reason for self-portraiture. We all see people differently. I know this must be true from the time years ago when I shaved off my beard and mustache just before a big company gathering, and people ranged in reaction from not knowing what I'd changed, to not recognizing me at all (one guy sat right next to me, assuming I was a stranger, until I spoke to someone else and my voice made him jump). We tune in to different aspects of faces. When an artist captures a face in paint, it's edited down to the things the artist is tuned to - what you get is not the person, but how the artist sees the person, now made visible for everyone else. This does a pretty good job in my case - this is how I look to me.
I can't say when the idea came to do a self portrait on this piece. I was going somewhere else entirely, then it needed a face, then it became my face, then it became only about my face (the other things that were going to be in this painting no longer worked or needed to be there). I may still go to that other place on another piece - I'd like to. But this isn't it. This is still wrapped up in daydreams of summer, though, and late evening summer skies. So it's not just me, it's also my thoughts.
PS - yep, the family thought it was not the me they see (too severe, too Asian). They had a good time with it, as did I. Not so long ago I could not have joked about my painting - I would have had to do something about every comment. Now I just think the different viewpoints are smart, interesting, funny - but not necessarily compelling me to change the work.