I made a joke last week that I’m more comfortable posting nude artwork of myself than taking an ordinary selfie for Instagram the way normal people do. It wasn’t much of a joke, really. I do have a problem where the idea of taking a picture of myself and sharing it makes me uncomfortable. After making that joke, I got an idea for a new self-portrait to draw, so I grabbed my camera.
…Which it turns out I haven’t touched since I used it to take reference pictures for the first Reflected Gaze comic about myself. Seeing these pictures again was just cringe-inducing, all lanky and scrawny and awkward, until I came across one that my girlfriend randomly took when she was helping me out. I still looked weird and alien in it, sure, but the poor lighting and graininess of the picture made it cool. For once, I identified with a photo of myself.
I set aside the idea I had in my head and decided to draw that photo. Which is NSFW, by the way.
Here it is:
And in sharing it here, we go back to that joke in the first paragraph and the question behind it: why am I confident in drawing myself nude but totally insecure about photos of myself? Reflected Gaze isn’t even the first time I’ve depicted myself nude in my own art (nor is that). I’ve even taken nude self portraits like this lousy one for a photography class. Where does that come from in the first place?
I think there are two sides to this. One is that drawing self-portraits isn’t altogether strange to me. It’s actively encouraged in art classes. Final projects for figure drawing were life sized self-portraits, so whatever issues you have with how you look, you had to shake them off and do the work. It’s a really great way to get better at drawing, really. I’ve seen more than my fair share of incredible work, and there are a few artists I admire who have had the gumption to photograph, draw, or paint themselves nude and did a killer job of it. I’m also the easiest model that I can work with. I enjoy figure drawing, but I don’t really know if finding models, especially in the area where I live, is something I’d want to do seeing as how awkward and dumb I am.
The other, stranger idea is this: I’m more comfortable with my body when I’m naked. I feel more like myself, more at ease. I’ve never been too fond of clothes in the first place, I guess. I’ve started exercising again pretty recently, and after I’ve worked up a good sweat and taken a nice shower, the clothes usually don’t go back on unless I have to go back out that evening. I don’t feel weird and alien; I feel less like an awkward moron than when I’m dressed up at a con trying to talk to people, I feel more relaxed and confident. Does that make sense? I don’t know if it does.
For a few months this summer, I was exhausted and miserable all the time. I was treating comics as a second job, doing so many cons and other small events, and it was really wearing me down and stressing me out. So I decided to take a break and walk away from it for a while, which was a huge step towards feeling better. The exercise, and I guess spending more time naked, are just further steps. I’m working on figuring out how to stay active and continue pushing myself without breaking down again, taking care of myself and paying more attention to my body and my brain.
I guess I never addressed that in the comic because that was the very purpose of it: drawing myself makes me feel better about my weird hang-ups over my body, and I’m not as concerned about them when I’m not covering them up with a Godzilla t-shirt. I think I’m in a better place now than I was when I first launched this site. I still don’t have any urge to take a selfie, but I will continue drawing myself, at least.