When people ask me what I prefer to paint it’s people, always people.
I’m not making life easy for myself as I’ve found in the past few years of working as an artist that if you want to paint portraits, people much prefer having their animals captured for posterity than their friends and family, or themselves.
I don’t have a problem with that at all, as I also love painting animals (I spent hours as a child copying from ‘Thorburn’s book of Mammals’) and there’s not a lot more satisfying than handing over a portrait of human or animal that moves someone because they feel the spirit of the sitter through the paint. It does make me wonder why fewer people think about commissioning portraits though.
People are more used to seeing people portrayed in photography these days. The commissioned portrait painting feels like something for the rich, or something from another era. Everyone has their own opinion (when I was exhibiting recently I overheard some passers-by comment “why would anyone want a portrait painting with the photos you can get nowadays?”) But as with a good photograph, a good painting can show a different way of looking at a person. And an original painting has an unexpected emotional quality that comes from the hand of the artist, the interpretation and the brushstrokes. Basically you have to see it in real life to feel it
I’ve been drawn to faces since I was very very small, I can remember being three or four years old and drawing my first eye that really looked like an eye rather than a wonky circle. I tore it off the piece of paper I’d been drawing on and kept it scrunched up in my coat pocket for months.
I spent a lot of time over the years trying different subjects and media but portraits are the subject that continue to inspire me. I’ve found myself on prompt week at art group continuously trying to incorporate faces and figures whatever the subject.
Portraits are a challenge. I like a challenge, and getting a likeness in a portrait is one of the trickiest things in art, where you have only millimetres leeway sometimes to capture features correctly. Practice, practice and more practice bring you nearer each time on the whole, and that’s a very satisfying (and frustrating) process. I’ve always thought that drawing is like sport, in that if you don’t practice training your eye and your arm, you lose art ‘fitness’.
It’s always a great buzz when your painting or drawing subject starts looking back at you.
People are endlessly fascinating. Everybody is different, and all portrait subjects present a unique challenge.
If you get to meet your subject and find out about them you have an opportunity to understand their personality, mannerisms, ask about their experiences, likes and dislikes and anything that might inform your final painting.
I will keep painting people as long as I am able and will never ever get bored of doing so. If you ever fancy modelling for me, or asking me to paint a commission for you, then get in touch!