Rebecca's self-portrait: no makeup, unbrushed hair and the facial expression of an agitated mountain goat.

I have a special prejudice against art classes. In French class, you have to learn vocabulary and grammar before you can read a book in French. In math class, you have to know how to add and subtract before you can multiply or divide. It makes sense. One has to have a solid foundation before they can delve into a subject. Yet, in art, I get so frustrated when I have to learn about technique. I want to dream up a project and run with it; I want to create subversive drawings; I want to materialize my feelings into art. I want to paint with all the colors of the wind! I know I have to learn about the foundations of each medium, but I don’t want to.

After learning about technique for most of the semester, my art class received our first self-directed project. We were told to express an important sentiment through a self portrait using any medium we wanted to. Drawing faces (specifically distorted faces) is my absolute favorite thing to draw—and not having to use charcoal for the assignment made it euphoric! I was one of the first to put together a solid idea for my portrait because I was so excited.

I decided to draw my self-portrait in pencil. In it, I wanted to look ugly. I wanted to look raw. The photograph I used was a picture of myself post-shower with no makeup on and unbrushed hair. My facial expression was that of an agitated mountain goat. My face was reflected in the table that I was resting my head upon. In the background, I’d decided to draw water droplets. I saw this all as a representation of being cleansed—of the physical and emotional expectations of society. It was intended to represent the rawness that exists below the surface.

I worked for hour after hour on my self-portrait, knowing that a new assignment was coming soon. I finished just in time for the new assignment, which turned out to be another independent investigation, this time using any subject matter. Obviously, given the choice, I knew I wanted to continue drawing faces. This time, I decided to expand upon an idea I’d formed a few summers ago. I’d taken many pictures of my younger sister in a copious amount of makeup, looking miserable and pulling on her face with her fingers. I painted one of these photos when I first had the idea, but I saw more potential.

I am currently in the process of drawing a series of three of these photos. Each will emphasize a different facial feature through color. If all goes as intended, these will be a critical commentary on the sexualization of young girls. I’m so excited to have been able to get through my foundational studies (at least for now), because meaningful projects like these remind me how passionate I am about art.