|Some of my work|
When I first started this painting malarky again I was almost too emabarrassed to call myself an artist. I might tell friends and neighbours, 'oh, I'm doing a bit of painting.' but it was in a very off-hand, low key sort of way. There are plenty of people who didn't know me when I used to paint - everything from portraits and landscapes to plant-pots and loo seats (yes I really did, there are still some loo-seat originals knocking about in various far flung bit of the Highlands), I expect those people thought I was talking about decorating, cos I did do a bit of that too.
When I used to paint, I had no problems telling people about it, because I had things I could show them if they demanded I support my claim (not that anyone ever did of course.) It was easier in a way to pop pictures of my work up on Facebook, which I did, and share my progress, because I got useful feedback and I had to post images to help with my Facebook stats. And, of course, I didn't know those people and if they hated my work I didn't have to see them next time I popped in to buy a chicken at the butcher's. (mind you, since I started my Facebook page I've made some very lovely friends online, but that's another story)
Then, bit by bit, I got back into painting and did a lot of different things, tried different mediums and utilised my very rusty skills, and gradually those skills began to come back and I began to regain my confidence. I remembered techniques and little tricks that I used to use, and I did a few portraits as well as landscapes. But what I really wanted to try was a portrait of children, because that is really hard.
As an artist, you need to aim for a good likeness when painting a portrait and if possible you need to try and get at least something of the person's character onto the canvas. Painting a portrait of children is a real challenge, you have to try and get the proportions right, the composition mustn't dominate and children are so very rarely still. But I really wanted to try
I had done some portraits of my own children, and did manage to achieve a resemblance. When I showed them my paintings they didn't hate them on sight - which I counted as a plus. But...it wasn't enough, I wanted more. This is easier said than done, if you no-longer have young children of your own. How do you even start that conversation?
Luckily, I got my chance. I was chatting one day on Facebook to a friend of mine, Lindsay, and she said that she liked my work, Lindsey has the two most lovely little girls, children that I have known since they were babies, so I asked Lindsay if I could paint them.
Lindsay was great, she sent me a selection of lovely photos of the girls to work from and then basically just left me in peace to get on with it.
I scrapped my first attempt pretty early on. Lindsay had sent me a photo of the girls laughing, in the sunshine. But they were wearing hats, which meant their faces were obscured and in shadow, and they were also in a woodland that meant the background was far too 'busy' for a portrait.
|The background was far too 'busy'|
The second photo that I used had been taken when the girls were playing in a large concrete pipe. The background was pretty plain, with a nice wee landscape as part of the composition and that's the one I finally went for.
I did the background first, blocking it in quickly and then I started on the older girl, H. H is an enchanting child. She is sweet and funny, but also gentle and somewhat shy. I made several attempts, but couldn't quite get her essence. She disappeared into the background or stood out far too starkly, i couldn't catch her sweetness or her fragile prettiness. So I prevaricated and Lindsay must have thought the painting would never be finished.
Then last week the weather was awful, wet, cold and stormy. My children were away and one morning I just decided that enough was enough and I had put off working on the painting for far too long. So I shut myself in the studio with the omnibus edition of the Archers and Verdi's operatic choruses and got to work.
|H was very tricky to paint|
I left H as she was, though I was far from satisfied with her and started work on R. If H is a somewhat reserved child until she gets to know you, then R is a force of nature.
|R, is a force of nature and appeared quite quickly|
She was so easy to paint in comparison with her sister it felt like she arrived on the canvas and wouldn't be ignored and once she had arrived H was far easier to coax into completion. Once her sister arrived everything seemed to fit into place and I finished the portrait within a couple of days.
|H, is very sweet and more reserved than her sister|
I was very lucky that Lindsay had supplied me with such a good photo as I had to do very little work on the composition and could concentrate on the images of the girls as can be seen from the photograph below
|It was good to have a very clear photo to work from|
Thankfully Lindsay and the girls were delighted with the portrait as can be seen from the lovely pic that they sent me and I've managed to get a nice shot or two to share.
|The finished painting|
I now have a long list of paintings that I want to complete, this time totally without guilt, as H is no-longer watching me reproachfully from a corner of the studio, but is part of a completed painting which is with its new owners.