Reflection on Reflection #6


I have been one acquainted with the night,
I have walked out in rain – and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

– Robert Frost
(Acquainted with the Night, 1928)

Portrait: Alan Rickman (Severus Snape)


Materials: ballpoint pen (black) + black Bic marker + black fine-point Sharpie marker

Time: 10-12 hours

Reference: Alan Rickman as Severus Snape on the poster for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010). Continued recent work with black. Different facial angle than previous portraits and wanted to try a cropped composition. Snape is my favorite character in the Harry Potter series!

Comments: my shading has improved and looks a lot smoother now. I also learned more about capturing hair and clothing details in a black background (continued from the Joker). I’m really happy with this one!



“You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making. As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death.”
– Professor Severus Snape (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 1997)


Reflection on Reflection #5

“All my life I’ve felt on the outside, wherever I am – out of the picture, the conversation, at a distance, as though I were the only one able to hear the sounds or words that others can’t, and deaf to the words that they hear. As if I’m outside the frame, on the other side of a huge, invisible window.”
– Delphine de Vigan (No and Me, 2010)


“I’m a picture without a frame. A poem without a rhyme. A sun without fire. I am a gun without bullets. I am the truth without someone to hear it. I am a feeling without someone to feel it. This is who I am.”
– pleasefindthis (I Wrote This For You, 2011)

Portrait: Rooney Mara (Lisbeth Salander)


Materials: ballpoint pen (black, red) + black fine-point Sharpie marker

Time: 5 hours

Reference: Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). As I noticed myself choosing only male faces for previous portraits, I kept wanting to try a female face but something kept preventing me from doing so. It wasn’t until I had gained a greater measure of peace with my own mirror image that I could finally draw a woman, especially with her chest partially visible. I also wanted to try a slightly different style with less detailed shading and high contrast.

Comments: really enjoyed this one, especially the dragon! Pencil allowed for outlines of face and body. Eraser allowed only when the drawing was complete. This style is visually striking but not technically challenging. Prep work prior to starting the drawing is increasingly helpful.



“I can be a regular bitch. Just try me.”
– Lisbeth Salander
(Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2005)

More Mirror Magic


In my first mirror experiment, I was wearing a fitted tank top and baggy sweatpants, sitting cross-legged on a stainless steel shelf across from the mirror in my hospital bathroom. So my reflection focused on my face and upper body. I had intentionally chosen baggy pants and a cross-legged position to conceal my hips and thighs, which have long been a prominent source of body dysphoria. Perhaps that was cheating, a bit – after all, I had challenged myself to evaluate my mirror image as objectively as possible. Despite a little cheating, that mirror experiment generated so many important insights, allowing me to create a more positive and more realistic current body image as well as a more concrete idea of what my ideal body looks like to help guide transition choices.

Since then, I have repeated the mirror experiment countless times, for shorter periods. I pushed myself to continue stripping away the cognitive and physical illusions I have used for so long to detach myself from every aspect of my body. I pushed myself to look at my reflection wearing tighter pants, like jeans and workout capris. I pushed myself to change my position, sometimes sitting with my legs stretched out or dangling off the shelf, sometimes standing or leaning against the wall, legs apart and legs crossed. And I pushed myself to engage with my own image, not just in bathroom mirrors, but also in all the other reflective surfaces that bounce our selves back to us as we move through this fragmented world: the darkened window of a gift shop after closing, the smudged glass of a framed grad photo, the shiny plastic of a gas-station trashcan, the metallic blade of a new kitchen knife, the sleeping screen of an open laptop, the mysterious blackness of a stranger’s sunglasses or the familiar blue of a close friend’s eyes.

So my reflection has become a dynamic and ever-present companion. Reflection on reflection remains an intriguing process. And as I’ve expanded my mental library of my own reflected images, I have added incremental insights and deeper awareness to the major realizations from that first mirror session. These insights and awareness continue to solidify the growing comfort and gratitude for my body.

But this comfort and gratitude are continually challenged, often unexpectedly. Near the end of stay in hospital, I had finished my morning workout, taken a quick shower, towelled dry, and wrapped the disappointingly tiny hospital towel around my waist. I studiously avoided dropping my gaze low enough to risk seeing my bare chest. I stood with my back to the bathroom mirror and reached down for my stack of clean clothes. And I realized – in a heart-pounding moment of fear and curiosity, shame and acceptance, annoyance and awareness – that I was still cheating. So I straightened up and, in a clumsy bathroom pirouette with a frayed white-towel skirt, I turned around to the face the mirror without a shirt or bra.

I had not been able to tolerate the sight of my bare chest since I was in my early teens. When I turned around that morning, my eyes initially focused only on my face and arms and shoulders – anatomy which was comfortably familiar after previous mirror sessions – dancing deliberately away from the lower half of the mirror.

Still cheating.

So I forced my focus downwards and inwards. And – to my complete astonishment! – I felt only the mildest discomfort. I saw the unwanted female breasts. I felt disappointed by their presence. But behind them, I also saw the power in my pectoral muscles and I saw the gentle rise and fall of breaths moving through my chest.

Certainly, the presence of breasts was uncomfortable and undesirable. And if I could have snapped my fingers and created a flat male chest just like that, I would have done so without hesitation. But I knew that was impossible. And I know that getting a mastectomy will be a long, painful, and potentially expensive process that is also impossible in any short-term timeframe. So that moment of seeing my naked chest in the mirror helped me achieve a radical acceptance of those impossibilities and a neutral peace with my current reality.

I may decide to pursue top surgery in the future, but that choice – previously motivated by disgust and self-loathing – became less urgent and less desperate as I stood in front of the mirror. I am now less convinced that top surgery will ultimately be necessary, but I will be open to that option moving forward. I will also be open to this ongoing process of accepting what’s real and revising what’s ideal. And I will remain open to any further insights that my capricious mirror image chooses to share with me.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome –
– Derek Walcott
(Love After Love, from Collected Poems 1948-1984)