Chuck Close Discusses Big Self-Portrait (1967–1968)

I decided to work from the photograph so that I could accept some things as a given, so that I wouldn’t have to think about composing, I wouldn’t think about the invention of shapes. Some funny things happened
in the making of this painting. I worked from two photographs, a bottom half and a top half, and when I was up on the ladder making the top half of the painting, I was doing, I made this much and then when I went to the bottom, I realized that what I had made was smoke and I wasn’t aware that while I was making it that was what it was. This is the first portrait. I decided to pick an image that had shapes and edges and some amount of focus difference so that there would be soft things and hard things. You can see the first kind of efforts at trying to establish this kind of focus difference. I was interested in trying to get this kind of backlighting to work. I’d get too much paint on and I’d have to try and take it off somehow and I would scrape away with razor blades. There’s no question about what I had some attitude about the way I wanted to be perceived, sort of, now it seems very funny this wanting to look like a tough guy with a cigarette sticking
out of the corner of my mouth and a big aggressive image of myself and saying to the viewer, hey you notice my painting, notice me. You make it big it takes a long time to walk by it and it’s hard to ignore and I think I was trying to find out, you know, what I was as an artist. I have as many potential portraits as there are people in the world and then I recycle an image and use it over and over anyway. I find it an incredibly full vessel that I can keep returning to and get something different from each time I go to it.


  • Ben Kotowicz

    Interesting! I like it.

  • Nick S

    He just didnt give a shoot.. Thats why the piece is so brilliant

  • Rafael Norman Rosario

    what materials did he use for this? is it also grid method?

  • Adam Cheek

    Wow!!!!this is will be very interesting pulling this photo shoot off

  • Topher Knoll

    Just finished an essay on Close's machine-like grid process here:

  • Christian Egon Bärnthaler

    super 1

  • MoZz

    Pls Help
    We're doing a school project about this picture and I have to know where its located at the moment
    ty <3

  • Shruggz Da Str8-Faced Clown

    Chuck Close is one of my all-time favorite artists of the 20th (and now 21st) Century — so kool to see this video footage of him explaining the process behind the making of one of his most-iconic pieces!


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