'Anwar', oil on canvas, 110 x 150cms
In the morning you face a blank canvas and five hours later you have created something entirely new that did not exist before. It seems sort of miraculous really, and I hope I never lose this sense of wonder that painting continues to offer me. So this is the painting that I have made of ‘Anwar’ from the drawing I posted on the blog in May. I’ve been avoiding portraits for ages, but have wanted to paint this one for some time. After the recent difficulties I’ve encountered in my painting, it felt nice to return to familiar ground. Not that it felt safe, more important to reconnect with some of the core values at the centre of my practise.
The reason I painted this portrait is that I’m entering it for an open competition at The Public in West Bromwich, with a couple of other portraits. If one of them gets selected I’ll be pleased and it would be one of the few opportunities I seem to get to exhibit the portrait work, as most commercial galleries just won’t consider them. I think most successful portrait painters get initially recognized through selection in open competitions. Success in these might encourage conservative galleries to take more of a risk with what they show.
I’m pleased with how I’ve handled Anwar’s skin tones and colour. I’ve been painting a much broader spectrum of people from different ethnic groups since my ‘Seek My Face’ project in 2008, and I’ve been surprised how neglected this area seems to be in portrait painting. It is very difficult to find more historical precedents in the European painting I’m most familiar with.
Like a lot of black skin, Anwar had more reflection in his face which I chose to leave out as it seemed to interfere with the direction and mood the painting seemed to lead me (the paintings do lead you most of the time, and you try and follow). You have to remember that the paintings are not an attempt to depict reality, but are my attempt to create something that has it’s own concrete reality in the world.