Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Ugly" (self-portrait)

Mixed media on watercolor paper - 8" x 10"

Gross. Deformed. Ugly. That's what I usually think when I look in the mirror.

My reflection coldly staring back at me creates embarrassment. How sad it seems that I'm a perfectionist....literally wanting everything perfect and all I see in the mirror are imperfections.

I've always had issues with the way I look.

In grade school I was the one with glasses. Gaps in between my teeth ensured I always smiled with my mouth closed. In high school I got contacts but in college wore braces.

Heart-shaped face, blotchy/oily skin, annoying hairline, skinny neck, small chin, ears that jut out, and more feminine looking than I like....well, I pretty much am not happy with my appearance.

There are days where I "feel" downright repulsive and can't look in the mirror too long. I don't even like my skin to be touched anymore. These feelings weren't as strong when I was younger but now seem to have gotten more intense in recent years.

Close-up detail

When walking downtown I tend to look at the ground and quickly head to my destination. I find myself pulling up the hood on my jacket to "hide" even on days it's warm out.

Recently a coworker was talking to me in the back office on a day my face had really broken out. I had to take several steps away from her pretending to look at the wall calendar so she wouldn't be so close to my face.

I hate my profile and seeing my face from different angles seems "off" to me. Crooked and misshapen and squished.

I'm aware these feelings go so much deeper than just my looks. It's a deep-rooted, psychological thing that even I don't fully understand. Most likely the internalized way I feel about myself shifting to the outer appearance. Can you tell I don't think very highly of myself?

The ironic part? I actually like the way the self-portrait turned out!

I love the combination of the watercolors and ink. This has such an illustrative feel to it. Perfect since my main area of study in college was illustration.

It's a very warped, exaggerated image but sometimes it's how I "feel" I look.


Anonymous said...

I think you are BEAUTIFUL!

Unknown said...

Dean this is the best portrait I've seen in a long time. It's powerful, thought evoking, beautiful and disturbing. Not many pieces can get the viewer to go through a myriad of emotions like you've been able to accomplish.

Too bad we can't wear our creativity, thoughtfulness, ability to persevere through adversity on the outside. If it were so, surely, you'd glow so brightly amongst all your friends and co-workers.

naturgesetz said...

Dean, I've opened two windows so I can look at the "full-sized" photograph that accompanies your profile beside your self-portrait. Clearly you are painting your "self-image" into the portrait, and the photo shows a much better-looking guy than the self-portrait. As you say, it's warped and exaggerated.

But as a work of art the self-portrait, it's powerful and haunting. I do hope that talking about it helps you realize that your negative self-image is excessive. Nobody is perfect, and we are acutely aware of our own imperfections. But we only know other's public personas — we don't see their internal imperfections, and we tend to notice others' physical imperfections less than we notice our own. In other words, it's okay to be less than perfect. So's everybody else.

Hannah Rose said...

hey, thank you for your comment!! reading your most recent entry, i feel them same ever since i was a kid, i hated the way i looked, but you had the courage to do a self portriat (i can't spell), i cant bring myself to do one. i still cant come to terms with how i look. If i send you a picture would you try to portray how i look?

artbyakiko said...

I like your self-portrait, too, especially the star on your third eye. What I see on your avatar is a handsome young man, so it's a total mystery to me why you don't like how you look. Maybe you have always been surrounded by super models.

Dean Grey said...


I think you are WONDERFUL!



Thanks for the compliments on the painting and for the kind words.

It was an emotional piece to do. It appears all the anxieties about the way I look made its way onto the painting....which is kind of what I wanted.



Thanks for comparing my profile photo against the actual self-portrait.

You're right, the painting was meant to capture my "self-image" more than my exact appearance.

It definitely makes me realize how negatively I feel about myself.


I must've taken 25 different photos for my profile and still don't like the one I chose!


Hannah Rose!

I'm glad you could relate to my self-portrait.

I admit to feeling uncomfortable while painting it. It brought up a lot of my "issues" and forced me to highlight all of my flaws. Not an easy thing to do considering it's now posted for everyone to see on my blog.

If you'd like me to do a portrait of you, e-mail me and we can discuss it.



Thanks for noticing the star on my third eye. It definitely means something to me and perhaps down the road I'll explain all about it.

There are a couple other "symbols" in the painting too but you have to look a bit more closely to see them. I'm really curious if anyone spotted them yet.

As I said to naturgesetz, my profile/avatar photo was the best out of 25 others so you're literally seeing only the good one and not the terrible ones.


Thank you all for your support!


Anonymous said...

We humans are such an odd species! How we judge ourselves! Yet, we appreciate plants and animals of all varieties without the detailed examination to which we subject ourselves... Very well done self portrait by the way!

Carolina said...

Hey Dean! You're a good looking guy, I can say that for what I've come to know about your inner side through your blog and comments... and your profile photo shows a handsome person too (aquí en el Perú muchas chicas querrían casarse contigo, no kidding)
Great portrait btw!
Do the leaves on your hair mean something?

Kathleen Coy said...

Hi Dean!

Ok, first off, thank you for passing on the lemonade award to me and all the nice comments you left on my blog! And I wish I could take credit for Wordless Wednesday, but I can't. Not sure who started that, actually. But it's fun, and I'm so glad you like my blog.

Second, your work is great! Love your blog!

Third, your self portrait is very powerful. Why are we so hard on ourselves, anyway??? I've gone through that throughout my life, never feeling like I fit in with how I was "supposed" to look. Finally I just reached a point to where I was done beating myself up over it, and pretend that I live in a world where a goofy face and fat ass is considered the ideal, lol.

BTW, I enlarged your profile picture and you are freakin' adorable, Mr! Very urban with lots going on in that head of yours.

Keep up the great art!

Tracey Clarke said...

This a a great painting.
Dean, we often see ourselves in a harsher light than others do, critically judging ourselves. We have a "distorted lens" that was ground by our history. We haven't integrated the good and bad in acceptance.
When we become loved and accepted by others, yes, with all our flaws inside and out (we all have them) we find freedom.

Beautiful work from a beautiful guy...inside and out. (By the way there are plenty of "seemingly" perfect people on the outside who are a complete disater on the inside. Just look st Hollywood.)

Dean Grey said...

Anna T.!

You're right. We are pretty accepting of nature and all its glory but can be the complete opposite towards ourselves.



Gracias por sus amables palabras.

Yes, the leaves in my hair do mean something!

The young ivy shoots represent my love of nature and plants in general. Glad you spotted it!



You're quite welcome. You deserve the Lemonade Award. Your blog is awesome!

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who struggles with their appearance. Maybe as time goes by I'll be able to accept myself and reach the point you have.



You hit the nail on the head in what I was trying to capture with this painting. Seeing myself through a "distorted lens". That pretty much sums up this self-portrait perfectly.

I guess no one is perfect, right? I'm still looking for my own freedom. Will I find it? Only time will tell.


Thank you, ladies, for the thoughtful comments!


Fábio Cembranelli said...

Hi Dean, I've been looking at your self portrait,it's an impressive work. I like it because it's intense and looks like an expressionist portrait, a kind of work that was frequently distorted, otherwise altered. You're a good looking guy, and a fellow artist that helps everybody with your intelligent comments and opinions.Keep on with your good work!

David Stehle said...

Dude, that self-portrait is really good, seriously! I love it and wish I had the talent you do to paint something similar.

Now as far being repulsed by the face looking back at you in the mirror, don’t think you’re alone. EVERYONE feels like that from time to time, some more than others. There was a time in my life not long ago that I found myself washing my hands in bathroom sink and I literally could not stomach looking at myself from my chest up. Weird, I know. But it had more to do with the feeling of personal disgust I had inside me than my actual facial features.

I am happy to know that you’re aware that this self-loathing you have is more than skin deep. Perhaps if you get help with what troubles you from within, then your views of your outer shell will improve.

Dean Grey said...


Thank you for the kind words, it's greatly appreciated!

I will keep on keepin' on!



I'm glad you like the "Ugly" painting.

I do find it hard to believe that YOU had issues with the way you looked at one time. YOU?!

But I do understand completely that it's how one feels about themselves on the inside reflecting onto the surface. The disgust, the shame, the weakness.

I'm sure my viewpoint about myself will change down the road (hopefully for the better). But this is a process and processes take time.


Thanks to both of you gentlemen for sharing your thoughts and supportive comments!


Freak said...

I love your selfportrait and what you say about your feelings related to your lookings. I can understand you very good, I myself and someone I know have felt the same way.
Partucullary in my case, I am not able to draw myself in a normal way. It onlylooks honest when I look 30 years older than I really am and much uglier.

I love your work, congratulations!

Dean Grey said...


Thanks for visiting my blog.

I don't know if I can say I'm glad you feel the same way I do, but I'm glad you can relate to my self-portrait.

It appears I'm not the only one with image "issues" around here. That's comforting to know in a strange way.

I appreciate you sharing your feelings with me!


~PinginRua~ said...

You're gorgeous.

I like the portrait; the different media work so well here.

I hated how I looked in school - I still get insecure and cling to my make-up for dear life, but I feel better than I used to - mostly because I look so different, having dyed my hair and changed my look a lot... I distanced myself from my old self-image..(and moved away and had a fresh start..)

I went back to my school recently and none of my old teachers recognised me. It's what I wanted... but it didn't feel good either.

I still can't leave the house without makeup on, but I think I'll be dying my hair back to brown. 'Cos I've realised it's not my hair or my acne's fault that I was shy and quiet and unhappy. You're right, it's deeper. It's just easiest to blame the looks.

What helped me was pretending to be confident - I'd even pre-prepare things so I'd always have something to say! Eventually, I realised I wasn't pretending anymore. It became real.

Like your blog a lot, btw.

Dean Grey said...

Hi PinginRua!

Glad to have you visit my blog!

It's comforting to know you can relate to this post and that I'm not the only one feeling like this.

I don't know how I could change my look all that much other than dying my hair. I think girls have an easier time with that.

Pretend to be confident? I might have to give that a try!

I appreciate the wonderful words from you!


Doomed But Cheerful! said...

Your profile pic shows another person from the one in the self-portrait - at least, it shows your perception of that person, and the draughtsmanship is spot on, so I guess I should congratulate you on your artistry. But I would also encourage you to disbelieve those negaive feelings you have had - from what I have seen and read, you are a lovely man, and clearly talented.
So - walk tall and revel in the knowledge that you have the power not only to think but to express them too.
G =]

Dean Grey said...

Doomed But Cheerful!

Thanks for taking a look at my "Ugly" self-portrait.

It took many years feeling that way and I'm sure it'll take me just as long to reverse that negative thinking.

I appreciate the kind words!


Unknown said...

This self portrait is REALLY GORGEOUS. Thank you for doing this fabulous work, Dean!! -RJB

Dean Grey said...

R. Bailey!

How nice that you think my "Ugly" self-portrait is gorgeous!

Thank you for stopping by and taking a look!


MartininBroda said...

I’m exploring a bit your blog and honestly don’t want comment, but here frankly said, the first reason to be interested in your blog was my impression: “What a handsome and soulful face.”I would never say that if I not just reading this post.

Silly word verification: cheese.

Dean Grey said...

Thank you for the kind words, Martin!


stanw said...

Dean, simply put, you are a beautiful person, inside and out. The self-portrait is incredible in it's artistry; saw the leaves in your hair and smiled when you said it was added because you love plants, they are a love of mine as well.

Dean Grey said...


This was such a hard painting to do because it dealt with some of my major "issues".

It was everyone's supportive comments including yours that helped put things in perspective for me.

I hope to do more self-portraits soon!


MartininBroda said...

Dean, obviously people tend to love you, especially when they see your self-portrait.

Dean Grey said...

Thank you again, Martin!


Anonymous said...

This painting is lovely. It is strong and emotional and brings up old memories.

I love the eyes most of all. They remind me of old internal fights.

Thank you for sharing this.

Dean Grey said...

Thank you for taking a look, melagee!


Unknown said...

I love the close-up detail, but can't agree with the title of the post... :-)

Dean Grey said...


That's very sweet of you to say!

Thank you, sir!


Winter said...

you are much more handsome than you percive yourself to be :) even tho i have esteem issues but i never think of myself as ugly, a little cockiness in me didnt let me do so >< hugs.

Dean Grey said...


I appreciate the kind words!

I'm not cocky at all but quite insecure instead.....if it wasn't obvious already!


Anonymous said...

I am going to break that lie off of you.

Dean Grey said...


You're more than welcome to try but I do believe I have to be the one to break the lie myself.


Bill said...

Another wow. I'm not the only crazy person running around here. (The net.) I personally think sanity is overrated! People have looked at me like I'm strange my entire life. Well, I think they have. It may just all be a delusion. :o) All that aside, your self-portrait is awesome!

Dean Grey said...


You are awesome for commenting! And yeah, all artists are a bit nuts!


Jodie | Velour said...

I just found you through Blogs of Note and I really enjoy your writing. Something of it puts me in mind of Ignatius Reilly (of A Confederacy of Dunces)...

As for this post, you are anything but ugly. I understand the demons of insecurity and how consuming they can be, but in my opinion, you are just beautiful.


Dean Grey said...

Jodie | Velour!

Thanks for that!


Anonymous said...

I find it amazing how one can look in the mirror and only see the shadows their features cast.
The thing about physical looks is; if you feel beautiful, you tend to look more handsome to others. You seem rather good looking in the first place. I know it's hard, but try to concentrate on the good about you. For instance, even in the portrait, you seem to have beautiful blue eyes and your hair has a really nice quality.
Why do you have a star on you forehead and ivy in your hair? Symbolism, I suspect?
Dean, breathe. Relax. It's going to be alright. You're only as beautiful as you feel, I've learned that if you concentrate on the good, it's not so hard to look in the mirror. I've always jumped when I looked in the mirror because of how unattractive I am. But I find that I'm surprised because after a while I've started to accept it and feel more beautiful.
Dean, you're plenty good looking, but if you don't believe me, let me tell you this. You have a beautiful soul.
Let that shine through.

Dean Grey said...


The star represents Wonder Woman (my favorite comic book character) which in turn represents my love of comics and my goal of becoming a comic book illustrator!

The ivy represents my love of nature and plants.

I shall try to let my soul shine through!