The Artwork: Holding Myself Together (Self Portrait)

Music, mental health and art.

A self-portrait (soon to be series) inspired by songs.

There have been times recently when I feel like I’m holding myself together so I don’t fall apart. My mental, physical and financial health aren't where I’d like them to be. I’m exhausted, but I’m here and I'm not going anywhere.

So, from life, art. Here is my latest self portrait, “Holding Myself Together” which was inspired by this challenging year and a wonderful song (below) that’s helping me get through it one day at a time.

I will be expanding this into a series of artwork in the near future!

Keep reading to learn about the musical inspiration for this piece and the art process from concept to finished artwork below... Or, if you are ready to add this to your collection, purchase a print of this artwork here.

"Holding Myself Together (self portrait)" ~ © Nikki Smith

From Concept to Painting

Birth of an Idea

My ideas often spring from music, or lead me back to the perfect song. When I hear song lyrics that perfectly reflect an aspect of my life, I am hooked.

In this case, my life (and perhaps yours, too) has not gone at all as I planned this year. I've been navigating a new-to-me world of last minute homeschooling, coping with pandemic-related stress and anxiety, wearing too many hats with too few resources, trying to juggle all of the balls without dropping too many, etc. Through it all, I keep showing up when it would be easier to give up. It's a battle some days, but I'm holding myself (and my little world) together.

When I heard "All Goes Wrong," everything came together in my mind and I knew what I needed to paint. (Listen to this song below...)

Getting Ready

Taking reference photos with remote trigger

During COVID, I am my own model. 🙂

I started with some rough sketches of what I hoped to acomplish.

I wanted to take some reference photos to study the light and shadows on my back, an angle I don't see every day (for obvious reasons, LOL.)

I set up a tripod in the backyard early in the morning when the light is best. With an open back shirt and a remote for the camera (circled above), I took several (ahem, hundred) reference photos.


Painting & Revisions

After pouring through my images, I mocked-up several possibilities before settling on a pose. Then I started painting.

My digital paintings take a lot of time, as I paint stroke by stroke and layer by layer by hand to build up the painting. I'll often create my own digital brushes from analog paint strokes (i.e. paint on paper, scanned and digitized) to incorporate into the piece. I'm also a perfectionist, so I keep painting until it speaks to me.

I began this painting in full color with a simple, flat background. Once the form started coming together, I added the hands one at a time. Finally, near the end I played with colors and settled on a muted pallete that fit the mood best.

Musical Inspiration ~ "Holding Myself Together"

"All Goes Wrong"

by Chase & Status, Featuring Tom Grennan

"Now I'm walking, now I'm walking
Through the fire I'll keep burning on
Well I'll hold myself together

When it all goes wrong
When it all goes wrong
When it all goes wrong
I'll take my time I'll keep on holding on
When it all goes wrong
When it all goes wrong
When it all goes wrong
I'll pull myself together
I'll keep on holding on"

Songwriters: William Frederick Kennard / Saul Gregory Milton / Dean Mcintosh / Nathaniel Ledwidge / Kieron Mcintosh / Tom Grennan

All Goes Wrong (Premiership VIP) lyrics © Top Draw Publishing Ltd., Eastfield Publishing Ltd., Detonate Music Limited, Good Soldier Services Limited

Fine art prints and merchandise of "Holding Myself Together (Self Portrait)" are available HERE.
Thank you for supporting living artists!

What song should I use as inspiration next? Let me know!