Anatomy of a Self Portrait

So, in the lead up to Christmas I stumbled upon a drawing set someone had given me the previous year; a neat shallow tin of sketching pencils which, I thought, was a pretty cool gift, the kind of nostalgia-laden offering that had conjured up notions of taking stock and adjusting my lifestyle, i.e.,

I used to really enjoy drawing. I should get back to doing some sketches. How long has it been since I’ve done any?

To which the answer was – half a lifetime ago. I hadn’t picked up a sketching pencil since I was 15 years old.

So when I discovered the set in a draw a few weeks back and realised a further 12 months had passed without my having used it, it was clear it was time to do my future self a favour and commit, this year, to rekindling dormant hobbies and carving out space in the diary for some long neglected creative pursuits – drawing, painting, photography, playing music etc. – stuff I’d once enjoyed and yet had somehow decided didn’t belong in adult life, or at least my adult life.

So… the image you will find below is my first stab at that.

Micah Yongo Self Portrait

It’s a self-portrait, of course, although a somewhat surreal and afrofuturistic one (click on the image for a closer look).

The idea was to create a hand-drawn image that would in some way reflect me – my interests, influences, inspirations etc. – and then figure a way to incorporate it into my blog’s banner (something I’m still working on).

The three guys at the top of the drawing from left to right – for those of you curious enough to wonder – are David Foster Wallace (writer), Saint Athanasius (4th century theologian), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (18th century French philosopher), who have all, one way or another, inspired and informed my thinking in some way since my early twenties (highly recommend their writings).

The roses are Lancashire roses, which are emblems of the county I live in. The cityscape is of Manchester, my hometown. The headscarf is in the colours of the traditional Nigerian dress of my family’s tribe (a rural warrior/farming tribe known as Tiv). And there are various other elements in the picture that I’ll leave unexplained. A little bit of mystery is always more fun, I think.

I took some pics of the drawing at different stages of progress throughout (see below).

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Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up the hobby through the year as well as rekindling one or two others. So far I’ve been finding the variety to be a useful way to refresh my creative juices and break up the writing workday. And I’ve sinced learned there’s plenty of research out there to suggest doing this kind of thing can up your productivity considerably.

In fact, according to one Carol Kauffmann (assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School) taking up a hobby can enhance creativity, help you think more clearly, sharpen your focus, and improve how you perform on your job.

In other words, hobbies don’t just make you feel better, they help you work better too.

So, what about you?

What hobbies or talents have you drifted away from? And why?

Have you too been neglecting your passions?

And are you willing to bite the bullet and commit some time to valuing them again?

Choosing to do so could be the best thing you do this year, so feel free to share your thoughts or experiences below.


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