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.