About half way through 2019, with 2020 coming up fast, I had been thinking about all the artwork I had been creating and the direction that it was taking me in. I knew that I needed to do something fresh and new but it's always quite daunting to step out and do something different from what you know and love. Despite this, I also felt like this was the best time for me to experiment, while my business is still small and I have the time to challenge myself and grow as an artist. All it took was a bit on encouragement from my friends and family and I made the decision to start an entire collection of portrait paintings.
This has no doubt been the hardest project I've done, working out how to fully capture a person's likeness is not easy. For me, it was a case of learning how to accurately represent the person, making sure the features looked right, while maintaining my free, energetic, go-with-the-flow painting style. With each painting, I seemed to have come at it with a different technique, from being super meticulous with measurements and scaling it to size, to slapping the paint straight onto a bare canvas and hoping for the best. The more portraits I painted, the more I seemed to find what method worked for me and the more I enjoyed painting them.
Coming into this project, I knew I wanted to paint everyday people, rather than strangers from the internet or celebrities. Usually when I'm painting, it's just me and the artwork. but when painting a portrait, there are other people involved. This project became about involving others into my art process, and giving people the unique chance of having their portrait painted when they otherwise would probably never get that opportunity.
With this in mind, I also wanted to collaborate with other talented creative people to add a new perspective to this collection..
Firstly, I want to shout out to the amazing Serena Parkin from @sparkin.photo https://www.instagram.com/sparkin.photo/
Her wonderful photo's have been used as a reference for a few of my paintings, and I just think they are absolutely amazing. Her ability to capture people in a beautiful, atmospheric setting really helped to fuel my inspiration, and gather volunteers for this project. I couldn't have done this without her support. If you're ever in need of a photographer based in Surrey, make sure to get in touch!
Secondly, I want to shout out my cousin Alice Davies, who has played a key role in this project. Currently studying BA English Literature with Creative Writing at university, she is a talented writer and poet. She is also working on her blog @mymindspeaksaloud which I know is going to be a huge success in the years to come. I asked her to use each portrait painting as a prose for a piece of creative writing, inspired by the imagery in the painting and also the title. This is not easy, but she has come up with the most beautiful and deep pieces of writing that capture the essence of my paintings perfectly, helping to tell the story. I know that her writing is going to add so much more to this exhibition, and I'm so grateful that she took the time to collaborate with me. I can't wait to exhibit her amazing work next to mine.
To read Alice's blog click the link: https://mymindspeaksaloud.wordpress.com/
Why call this collection "IMAGE"?
It's a simple title, but I wanted it to sum up what I was trying to do here, which was to portray a whole personality within a single image. In real life, a person's image doesn't give much away. We can make our own assumptions based on the clothes people choose to wear, or the way they present themselves, however we can never truly know exactly who they are beneath. I wanted to create portraits that tell a story, that represent a personality, or a moment in their life where they might have felt a certain way. I believe that each of us can relate to every single one of these portraits, and have probably experienced these moments in our own lives.
Introducing "IMAGE" A collection of painted portraits:
it’s only in the middle of the field that you can hear it - the subtle plucking of the heart in a tune sailing through the wind. you can almost reach out and touch it, grasp at the notes just before they dissipate into nothingness. autumn leaves dance to the music of the field and you’re left stuck in the middle of a cacophony of sound, twirling and twirling and twirling around in a dizzying calmness. reaching out you know you could never really grasp this - this beautiful ghost of a sound.
He passed you many times over the year - the skyline a backdrop to his life. He could never challenge the limits of the sky, not like those skyscrapers, not with a body pressed under the power of infrastructure. Who could? So you’d think one day he’d fall prey to the birds, swarming around his head and soaring beyond every obstacle that lay at his feet. Instead, he followed them, allowed them to whisper freedom in his ear. He walked the paths of the street as if they were the paths of the sky and then, he could not help but fly - it was his destiny. He’d always been striding with a sense of purpose, had you seen it differently. Ambition isn’t always what we want it to be.
You breathe in the scent of the day for the first time in a while. your chin reaches up to the sky, to the trees, to everything. you like to think fallen leaves make a home out of random people’s hair, like maybe you make a home out of living in your own little bubble. in the pace of your life you forget about all of this - breathing in... living within... dreaming... it all comes from inside of you. let the wind slap your cheek. let it remind you, remind you, to look.
He sat there a while, with his brush to paper, colours burning into one another. eyes fixed on eyes. like a mirror of a fantasy world, the paper transformed with each stroke, gently guiding his life into something it wasn’t, into something it could be, into something unrecognisable. with the moulding of a new life came the melting away of another, hands seeping into the violet sky. a faint smile of peace, fear, serenity. a bruised paintbrush lay atop a masterpiece.
Her dress is like the sky - perfectly blue yet changing, altering at every glance, and she is changing too. As she sits atop the well, a voice calls out from below. He’s telling her that her new self is welcome here, that we all live inside this world that, after we jump out of the well of our own habits, our life transforms. She says she doesn’t feel welcome in this fairytale. He tells her no one does - not when the sky rains glitter and the forest hides wolves and there’s no bridge between magic and utter despair. She watches her reflection in the murky waters but no longer dips her feet into the past. A pocket of light escapes the water’s surface - a reflection of the greater light above.
She sat him down and told him that life is not as short as we think it is. That as each moment passes, we wonder about the next one, the one after that, the one far in the future where maybe things aren’t quite how we want them to be, but the only time that really matters is now. He tells her that she is right, that the only time where we truly let go of everything from the past and everything from the future is when we laugh - a real laugh - and so that’s what they do. In the small moment they share, with smiles reflected in each other’s eyes, they realise there are more smiles than they can ever catch; there are more smiles than they can appreciate but they are there and real and meaningful. Smiles will come and go effortlessly as they laugh away all of time.
I don’t remember the last time I saw a butterfly. It’s something so rare and temporary and fleeting that it leaves before I get a chance to ask it to stay. But I’ll remember it this time. I’ll remember its gentle flutter like my eyelashes - its desire to move, weave, free itself of any kind of path. And as I find my eyes rolling, curving, following the butterfly’s dance I wonder what small change happened today. What voice out there called for a different ending as there was a flutter of a butterfly’s wings? Because in the chaos of this world and the chaos of my memory I can’t remember the first butterfly I saw, but they hover behind all of our eyes, blinking change into the world.
I look into his eyes and I wonder what he will be as time ages him. I wonder what colour hair he will grow and what type of car he will own. Will he put on a uniform like one of his toy soldiers? Will he learn musical notes like his ABC? I wonder if he’ll still gently tap my arm to get my attention, if his eyes will grow into those of kind understanding. Maybe he’ll call me up for advice. Maybe he won’t call at all. He’ll take an afternoon nap when times get the best of him, and then he’ll wake up to my smile in the corner of a picture frame. I wonder if he’ll remember how I raised him. I wonder if he’ll think about the past at all. I look into his eyes and I wonder what he will be as time ages him, but it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, I will still hold his head to my heart.
The hills roll into the horizon and I wonder how it must feel to fall so effortlessly. The darkened clouds don’t need to worry when the rain seeps into the grass or trickles down the edge of nature’s slanting ways. It’s a haze in my mind - constant - the want to fall away without a trace. How can I dig my feet into the earth without digging into the earth at all? Feeling the leaves lick my coat, and my eyes, shining, behind strands of hair, it’s not fair that I hold myself up... with open arms... for something. Nature rolls on, and on, I ask for permission.
As I opened the curtains that morning, it was like I had opened my eyes. Light flooded into a darkened room, a feeling of gratitude alight in my shadowed heart. I hadn’t known life outside the room of my mind for a while - if you had looked into my eyes you wouldn’t have seen anyone - but opening the curtains felt like a new start. The plants on my window ledge spoke to me in hushed tones, telling me things were different now. I felt the sun warm against my cheeks. I couldn’t wish for a better feeling than that of the day embracing me with open arms. /This is more than me. This has always been more than me./ As I walked down the stairs, out the door, and into the world, I reminded myself of what it was like to sense the love of the planet wash over me. So simple. So pure. Free of any complexity. I breathed it in and let myself feel. I haven’t closed my eyes since.
She knelt in front of the garden, poking at the soil. Her fingers traced the delicacy of the flower petals as she watched a tiny caterpillar scoot across a leaf. She was a flower in this garden too. Roses adorned her headband and a beautiful dress draped across her knees. She felt like a fairy in wonderland. Her mother tapped her on the shoulder, telling her it was time to go home, but the little girl wanted to stay. This was a day so magical she couldn’t help but feel that nature was her friend. Eventually, she pushed herself upwards towards the smile of her mother, her dress falling back down to her tippy toes. As they walked under the floral archway, she felt nature’s magic tingle in the soft palm of her hand. She wished she could hold onto it forever.
With a pen in hand, it’s hard not to get swept up inside your head. Words jumble about your mind like a bingo machine as each one rolls out; a new sequence, a new line-up. The result of a thousand random moments condensed and ordered. Except no one can win at this game. Plucking at memories, observations, a story fumbles its way into existence. It wants to be told, needs to be told. It breeds inside your heart. Others watch your gaze stare off into another world, oblivious to the sounds of the present moment filtering their way through the chaos - you filter out it all. It’s just you and a pen and a life that has just started living. Lost in thought. A book waiting to happen.
So this is the full collection, my most varied collection of work to date. I would like to invite all of you who are interested to visit my solo exhibition for this series on the 11th - 14th June 2020 at our open-house event. (Details will be below)
Due to the coronavirus outbreak currently happening, this date may change, however everything will be updated on my website and social media so make sure to follow me there.
These paintings will be offered to the volunteer models first, but will be then be available to purchase after the exhibition has completed.
If you would be interested to see the process behind some of my work shown here, head over to my youtube channel where you can watch the sped-up process of me painting.
I would love to hear your feedback on this collection, so please leave a comment below telling me your favourite and which one you relate to the most.
Also, if you would like to commission a portrait of yourself or someone you know then please get in touch!
Thanks for reading,