Archive for August, 2007

Three Linked Portraits


Alex wrote to me a long time ago now having seen a diptych portrait of myself in the National Portrait Gallery that summer called “Pretending to be Jesus – 33”. He wanted a portrait of him and his wife in the style of The Arnolfini Marriage by Van Eyke, the incredibly beautiful painting in the National Gallery. At first I was a little hesitant because I thought that it might look like a terrible pastiche of a wonderful and famous painting and not stand alone so I hadto do something quite drastically different to take it away from the origional. Luckily Alex was very open minded and infact quite keen for me to develop my own thoughts on the composition. For me the lighting was a key issue and I used a very dramatic, charo sceuro style glow which instantly changed the mood and atmosphere of the painiting.  We considered a naked pose for Alex but he wore leather trousers instead with naked torso which contrasted beautifully with his wife’s traditional wedding dress and to me created a kind of tension in the portrait. In the origional the lady looks like she is pregnant,she actually isn’t, it is just the style of dress but most people just assume that she is. Alex’s wife is actually pregnant in this painting which caused a few problems and aching limbs during the sittings, ( or in this case standings). Whe their first child was about 2 years old Alex contacted me again and asked me to paint her. I’m always a litle hesitant about painting children because so much child portraiture is sentimental and twee but as it was Alex I agreed. We were sitting down and Alex gave his daughter a bottle of bubbles which she started to blow and we were away. Alex wanted an element of the “unfinished” in the portrait so the base tones around his daughters head and hands are still visible. It’s not something that I usually do and I must admit that I found it quite difficult to walk away from an unfinished painting. I often use grids and write a lot of notes on paintings as I go along in pencil but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave them on.  A year later Alex and his wife had a baby son and Alex asked me to paint him over a dinner in Islington one night which was great because the project was turning into a triptych ( though the origional painting was much larger than the subsequent 2) I finished this portrait of his son about a week ago and if you look at the next entry on the blog you can see the sequence and development of the portrait. Alex wanted his son to be the main subject of the portrait with a little portrait of his daughter – ( because she had already been painted) so she is depicted quite small in the background with the idea that she is in some kind of abstract, “white space” perspective.  During the second sitting , very early on when they were wide awake and running around I got some great action shots of them both looking very happy, anarchic and enthusiastic which I think is just right for kids rather than the formal school photo portrait.

August 27th, 2007



For those of you who are interested in how I put a painting together here is a sequence showing the way I made the painting. Initially with the base tones and then working in the heads and then finally the clothes. I like to work in the flesh tones first and make sure that that part is completed  to a high finish and to a quality that I am happy with before I move on to the rest of the painting because in a portrait obviously the faces are the most important thing to get right.

August 27th, 2007



My show at The New Art Gallery, Walsall closes on Sunday 2nd September and all of the drawings and paintings will all be going their own seperate way, never again to be seen in the same room together ( that sounds a little dramatic) so if you would like to see the show it will haveto be over the next 2 weeks ( but the gallery is closed on Mondays).

August 20th, 2007


August 2007

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