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The Study of Self-Portraits with Tania Karpowitz

This fall The Art League will be focusing on self-portraiture. Whether you are an Exhibiting Artist, planning your entry for the October Self Portrait show, or a potential student looking to explore self-portraiture in your own practice, this post is for you!

September 1214 Art League instructor Tania Karpowitz will be teaching “The Self Portrait” workshop. The Art League asked her a few questions about the workshop, as well as for some tips on entering the October Self Portrait exhibit.

Mountain Head by Tania Karpowitz
Mountain Head by Tania Karpowitz

Artist and Art League instructor Tania Karpowitz, whose work has been exhibited in New York, Madrid, DC, Boston, and is currently in the permanent collection of the Borowsky Gallery in Philadelphia is a seasoned self-portrait painter, and will also be teaching “The Self Portrait” workshop on September 1214. The Art League asked her a few questions about the workshop, as well as for some tips on entering the October Self Portrait exhibit.

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.” – Frida Kahlo

As an artist, why do you make self-portraits?

As a young person, I needed to look at myself to ask important questions. I wanted to SEE how my face reacted to the feelings evoked by such questions.

As I get older, I go to self-portraiture images as a way to transition into new places artistically. I know myself well and don’t care how I look in a painting , so I am free to tell a story and take an account of where I am.

When painting or drawing yourself, is it hard to see yourself objectively?

Once when I was lecturing on Rembrandt’s Self Portraits ( he made 64 in his lifetime), a student once remarked that one didn’t look like him. How did she know?! More importantly, who cares?! It is a painting, telling a story.

Sky Head by Tania Karpowitz
Sky Head by Tania Karpowitz

How do costume and gesture play a part in the self-portrait?

They both play a huge role in storytelling. Costume tells about wealth, position, culture. In fact, that is what made me start painting nudes. A nude is a man or woman in their humanity. It is universal. A costume is very significant and so is the decision to jettison the costume altogether.

Gesture is critical in a still image. One body can have different gestures, creating tension and drama. I love that moment in a painting. Light (or darkness), space (specific or non-specific), and objects also add to a self-portrait.

Wind by Tania Karpowitz
Wind by Tania Karpowitz

Does a self portrait have to be a rendering of your face?

No. I think all paintings, in part, are self-portraits. As my brother once said, while posing for me, “It may be my face, but it expresses your mood.”  

Artwork by Tania Karpowitz
Artwork by Tania Karpowitz

Are there any artists whose self-portraits you are particularly inspired by?

Rembrandt is the self-portrait painter I always return to, because of the number and quality [of his works].  He tells the story of his life through [his] paintings. His young insecurity turned into arrogance and success, [followed by, later] acquisitions and wealth. Then in a turn of events… losses and suffering; until he was left deeply sad, alone and poor. I have made a deep friendship with him through his paintings. I am grateful for what he left us, even though he died without anyone caring for him or his work.

You will be teaching a Self-Portrait workshop September 1214. What can potential students hope to get from the course?

I hope students will work through different compositions and expressions in order to find a place that surprises them.

Artwork by Tania Karpowitz
Artwork by Tania Karpowitz

The Gallery will be having a Self-Portrait exhibit in October. What advice would you give our exhibiting artists as they prepare?

Take risks and experiment. Try things that take you in a direction where you can’t predict the outcome.  

Be sure to register for Tania’s Self-Portrait workshop coming up September 1214, and remember that the last day to submit to the October Self-Portrait exhibit is September 15.

 

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