Madeline Norman

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I Think Therefore I Wish I Weren't

Watercolour on Paper

42 cm x 29.7 cm




I am interested in depicting faces, especially my own. When painting my face, I have a creative licence that I don’t have when painting anyone else’s. There is a variable but inevitable gap between a person’s self-perception and how they appear objectively, then there is the gap between how they see themselves and their capacity to convey that vision. These gaps are what make self-portraits so interesting me, and I like to experiment with making my own as distinct from one another as I can.


My interest originated in a self-portrait project done by learning-disabled artists I work with at Venture Arts, Manchester. Some drew themselves as animals or abstract shapes, while others drew completely different people, of a different gender and with different physical attributes. I was struck by the freedom with which the artists depicted their physical selves and their essences. Their self-portraits were aspirational but also retrospective and true to their present selves simultaneously. I felt inspired to paint not just how I see myself, but how I feel myself, to convey my petulance, my sullenness, my apathy, my nihilism, but also my silliness, my whimsy, my glee. 


I paint in watercolour because there is something subtly subversive about using a medium traditionally associated with serene pastoral scenes and gentle domesticity for serious portraits. Watercolour can capture the elusive and delicate with its translucence, but it also has a deceptive substantiality that lends itself to heavy themes just as well as oils. - Madeline Norman, 2020

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