Passport to the Past

I need to renew my passport, so needed a new photograph with which to apply.

Our local supermarket has one of those photo booths that does digital images for passports and other formal documentation, so I went along this morning and did the deed exactly as instructed. I came home and duly completed my online application, and now it’s all done and dusted I’ve been sitting looking at my strange new photograph staring back at me from the little print-out provided.

There are of course so may rules and regulations around passport photography – no smile, no fancy accessories, no hair covering your face, no careful posing to get your best angle. No camouflage or intrigue allowed, no tactful hints nor graceful subterfuge. In fact no visible individuality or personality required to be shown at all – just a straightforward full-face-on mug-shot that bares your soul in a most disconcerting fashion. Raw reality packing its punches with no holds barred.

In my photograph I look… How best to describe how I look?

Blank, I suppose. Empty of emotion. Just a set of unremarkable features set into a gently ageing female face. Wrinkles showing quite clearly on my forehead, decidedly drooping eyelids and unsightly fleshy pouches gathering under my deepening eye sockets. The high cheekbones of my youth have lost a little of their shapely definition. Thinning mouth beneath a small neat nose, soft rounded chin, wrinkled neck. Greying dark blonde hair sitting with an easy, devil-may-care attitude on my shoulders. I look exactly like the middle-aged woman I am.

I am fifty-seven years old, and in this starkly unapologetic image I see myself as most of the real world probably sees me. Not carefully posed with my standard fake-prepared photo-smile or my preferred pouting-in-the-mirror-face, but instead I see a real reflection of me captured in the raw with resigned, been-round-the-block-a-few-times eyes and a defiant look of focused concentration. A little haggard, maybe, slightly careworn, but nevertheless appearing to carry my almost three-score years with the pride of a battle-scarred badge of honour saying – yes, the life I have lived shows in my face, and what of it?

I am surprised to find I quite like this blank-expressioned image.

She is growing on me, this mature in-my-face me with nowhere to hide. I am reminded of a portrait my mum painted of me fifty years ago. In the painting I am looking directly out of the canvas, straight on. Mum has painted me with my resting face on after hours of sitting still, not with the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t fleeting flash of a smile, and I realise in this new passport photograph I look just the same, but so much older. The association pleases me… the feeling of continuity across the decades, of shared common ground between me then and me now… a kind of visual deja-vu with a difference… 🙂

Inverness in Watercolour

While the artistic muse is still with me, today I decided to try to paint something a bit more complicated than a single thistle or a couple of plums, like a landscape, so chose to go with a favourite view of Inverness looking along the river.

Again I used a photograph as inspiration, although to say I may have simplified the scene slightly is an understatement! And again, I started out with a minimal outline in pencil, filled in the base colours with an overall wash, then once that had dried sufficiently I added more depth and definition bit by bit, then in the final layer I tweaked it with a few more detailed strokes here and there.

It’s not finished exactly, but I think I’ve taken it as far as the fun will let me for today so will leave it at that. Overall I’m happy enough with it as a learning experience, and for me the most important thing is that I actually had a go – after all it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts! 🙂

Stylised Plums

I had so much fun painting my thistle this morning, I decided to have another go – strike while the iron’s hot (or while there’s paint in the palette)! So this time I’ve tried painting my very impressionistic view of plums ripening on the tree, using another of my photographs for inspiration 🙂

Watercolour Thistle

This morning I had a now-or-never moment and decided to paint something – anything – just to get started again. So I chose a thistle – I found an image I liked as a base and drew a basic pencil outline before starting to fill in the base wash colour. Once that dried, I added a second layer of colour, giving a bit more definition. Then after that dried, I added the detail.

It’s not ever going to be an accurate photographic reproduction, it’s always definitely going to be an ‘artist’s impression’ of anything with me. Even from this first attempt after along time I can see I’m still more of a suggestion and hint kind of painter, but that’s ok with me. The main thing is I’ve had fun, and woo-hoo, look, I’ve actually painted something! 🙂

Flower of the Day

Brushing It Off

I used to enjoy drawing and painting just for fun, but I haven’t done it for years. I did try a few years ago to look out my art stuff and have another go, but somehow my enthusiasm didn’t last. I feel I’d like to try again, here and now, but it’s a nagging feeling I keep brushing off.

I tell myself I’m so out of practice I’ll be no good at it, then I also tell myself of course I’ll never be good at it if I don’t even try – practice makes perfect. I watch my grandchildren draw pictures of anything and everything, and they don’t hesitate – they pick up a crayon or pencil or paintbrush and make that first mark on the paper with courage and confidence. They don’t fear failure, but if it happens and the drawing goes wrong they face it and deal with it, either changing their plans or starting again.

I mean, I have plenty of beautiful plants in my garden as subjects to paint, plenty of beautiful scenery close by, plenty of paper and paints and even plenty of room in the house to be creative – so why don’t I just do it? What am I so afraid of? Watch this space…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Brush