And now, Scary-Crayon presents... The Wes Portrait Project by: Wes

As of this week -- specifically, January 25, 2011 -- Scary-Crayon's been on the web for seven years. A lot's changed in that time, largely in terms of content. Whereas before the site consisted of fairly low-rent html with a color scheme consisting of dull gray and red and brown, we now have a somewhat more involved navigation setup and a darker yet simultaneously more vibrant Halloween-themed scheme with black and orange and green and purple. (Yeah, it's been that way for a while now, but hey, I'm listing stuff. :P) Photos used to be snapped anywhere, anytime with the aid of the camera's flash; now much of the site photography takes place in a small studio setup with a light tent and lamps. Unfortunately, that's affected the frequency of posting -- the photography and image editing takes much more time than it did in the past -- but it does mean that pieces come out looking better than they did before. However, I think that's also given the site a somewhat more severe tone, and sometimes I miss the emphasis on humor and mockery that characterized SC in past years.

Another thing that's changed over the years is the increasingly diminished visual presence of the webmaster: me. Although I suppose I refer to myself and past experiences often enough in articles, it's been a very long while since we've had a review or "adventure" piece of sorts in which my image appears frequently. I suppose it's possible that some visual impression of me will return to the site if I start up again with comics like the Dusty Plastic Hell: Hot Flashes of old, but unless I someday decide to start doing video reviews it's very unlikely that you'll ever see anything like The Lifestyles Flavored Condoms Review on SC in the future. (In terms of frequent photographs of me, I mean; I'd totally review something weird like that again. Edible underwear companies wishing to send free product samples are encouraged to contact me via e-mail.) I'm Krispy Kreme paper hats are cool.not entirely certain why that is, though it probably has a bit to do with my annoyance at being bombarded with webmaster photos on some other sites. I get that some people are essentially their own mascots -- and sometimes explicitly so! -- and it doesn't bother me in the least when the webmaster appears as a cartoon. But when the webmaster starts appearing in multiple photos in every article, the work takes on an egotistical quality that I find repellent. (Unless the webmaster is a relatively attractive woman, in which case she can post as many photos as she likes without complaint from me. ;))

That said, I certainly understand the impulse to post multiple photos of oneself. After all, we might have other goals in starting these sites -- to entertain, to create, to enlighten, to share -- but we also want to communicate with others. In a very real sense, we want to be known... not like celebrities, where people recognize us on the streets and gossip about our lifestyles but don't really know or care who we are as individuals, but with respect to our ideas and passions and viewpoints. When someone leaves a thoughtful or encouraging comment in response to something I've written, I feel like we've somehow connected -- perhaps even on a more meaningful level than in many of my real life interactions. When someone simply voices a general appreciation for the site, I take it as a personal compliment. Even without an abundance of personal photos or a conscious focus on myself, I realize that every article is littered with "snapshots" of me. It's the same for other websites, and perhaps some people are just bolder in their acknowledgement of that reality.

So while The Wes Portrait Project might seem like a supremely vain undertaking, I think it instead stems from that desire to present myself -- and to know how people see me in return. It didn't even begin as a planned undertaking; it just sort of came into being while I was patrolling the artist alley at last year's Baltimore Comic-Con. I had been tasked with securing toy-related art for Articulated Discussion (we'll get around to spotlighting it one of these days), and I thought I might like to commission a few pieces for myself. But what would I have people draw? I'm a fairly decent artist myself -- or at least I have decent command of a pencil and an eraser, so with enough time (and the requisite commitment to the task) I can tweak and correct a drawing until I'm quite satisfied with it. As such, unless I really want a specific artist's interpretation of a character, I'm probably capable of drawing most things I might commission from an artist. More importantly, there are few characters I care enough about to commission from an artist. I really like Cutie Honey, but I could just as easily order a poster or print some amazing artwork of her from the web if I think I need her image on my walls.

Wes as a cartoon supervillain; 1996.Wes with uzi, sword, and beloved necklace; 1999.Wes with arms crossed; 2000.
Wes as a vampire; 1997?Wes with longer hair; 2002."Modern" Wes with oversized crayon and red wings, drawn in sharpie; 2005.

But I do care about myself, and I want to know how people see me, so it came into my head to commission people to draw pictures of me. Yes, I can draw pictures of myself -- and I've drawn many -- but having someone else draw me is different. I can draw myself in various different ways, but in the end it's still my interpretation of me. And I generally know what I think of myself! Accordingly, I don't count the above drawings as part of the Wes Portrait Project in an official capacity, but I'm including them here for the sake of completeness. If nothing else, they're sort of artistic renditions of my hairstyles -- as well as examples of my preferred drawing styles -- over the years. And the second picture is notable for including a favored necklace of mine, which I scanned and added to the scanned drawing. I've since misplaced the necklace and have absolutely no idea where it is, but man! I used to wear that thing all the time. I loved it, and I'd really like to find it (or at least buy another just like it... but I don't know what the shape is called to facilitate my eBay searches).

Anyway, the real Wes Portrait Project didn't really begin until last August, but there are retroactive additions -- as apparently I had the same idea regarding having artists draw me during my 2002 visit to Otakon. I also sat for a street artist in New York City in 2004; that portrait has also been included in the gallery. And for good measure, there's also a caricature from our 1991 Disney World family vacation! So the drawings are below, with artist information and links if I happen to have them. (If you recognize your work and it isn't credited -- or you want a more extensive blurb -- please contact me with that info.)

Wes caricature by Neal; 1991.

As noted above, this was drawn by a caricature artist during our family vacation to Disney World in 1991. It's signed by "Neal," but that's all I know about the artist.

Wes with Morrigan and Willow, artist unknown; 2002.

I commissioned this at Otakon 2002 in Baltimore, Maryland (and during the brief period that I sported blue hair, as you see). The women flanking me are Morrigan Aensland and Willow Rosenberg, respectively.

Wes with blue hair and collar by Stevie Wilson; 2002.

This one was also commissioned at Otakon 2002 -- and drawn by Stevie Wilson. Her website is here!

Wes in charcoal by NYC portrait artist; 2004.

I commissioned this from a portrait artist just outside Manhattan's Central Park in September 2004.

MMA Monster Wes by Bryan G. Brown; 2010.

This was commissioned at the Baltimore Comic-Con in August 2010. As the helpful stationery indicates, it was drawn by Bryan G. Brown. He authors a comic called Monsters of MMA, so this portrait is in the style of one of the combatants from that.

Wes by RL May III; 2010.

Another August 2010 Baltimore Comic-Con commission -- this one by RL May III.

Wes by Danielle Corsetto; 2010.

Baltimore Comic-Con, August 2010. Drawn by Danielle Corsetto, who authors a very cool webcomic called Girls With Slingshots.

Greatest Hero Wes by WGN; 2010.

Baltimore Comic-Con, August 2010. Drawn by... WGN?

Wes art card by Tressina Bowling; 2010.

Baltimore Comic-Con, August 2010. Drawn by Tressina Bowling, aka BirdieBo.

Now, you'll notice that I haven't critiqued the images in this article. For one, each artist has his/her own style, and I don't want to put anyone down or appear to favor certain artists over others. Also, while some of the drawings probably look less like me than others, I'm not sure that's an entirely fair criticism -- in addition to some of that being chalked up to the artist's individual styles, it's worth noting that there are actual photographs of me that I don't think look like me for whatever reason. And, for the most part, these were quick $5-10 commissions at anime and comic conventions, so it's not like one could expect anything as realistic or involved as, say, Lila's amazing painting of the titular character at the end of the second season of "Dexter".

Dexter is demonic.

But the biggest potential problem with the drawings -- and the project itself -- is sort of a difficult one to overcome: the fact that these people don't really know me. When Lila painted the above image (and yeah, I know Jaime Murray didn't really paint it and Michael C. Hall isn't really a serial killer... we hope), it was after she'd discovered Dexter's secret -- and while it definitely resembles the man, it's more significant that the image effectively conveys the character's darkness. Similarly, but more favorably, there's an old written piece that I dug up today for inclusion in the project (but that I won't share here out of respect for the author). There are descriptions of events I've long forgotten (and one I remember too well) that depict me accurately; fitting words used to describe me that I might not select myself... it's really kind of moving for me to read it now (even though I'm convinced the author would use less positive terms to describe me today).

And sure, I could specify objects to be included or qualities I want conveyed in a portrait, but that could never be as compelling as it would be if an artist knew the me well enough to insert those things him/herself! (Though they do tend to pick out details like my hair color or TARDIS necklace, and sometimes they add their own details, like WGN's improvised t-shirt. That's still kinda cool.) For many of the commissions I provided the artists with a reference photo, and it's rather obvious which ones those are. Again, that's hardly the fault of the artists, but hopefully some of the new additions to the Wes Portrait Project -- whether they're realistic or fantastical drawings, artistic or manipulated photographs, or custom toys -- will contain depictions of me that communicate more than just my physical appearance. Easier said than done, eh? But until then, there's always Scary-Crayon. :)

-- Wes --
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