'Alfie', oil on canvas, 120 x 180cms, 2007
I received a phone call last night from Stuart, his son, that Alfie Smith, Black Country poet and comedian had sadly passed way last night aged 72 after quite a long period of illness. Alfie was also a subject for one of my portrait paintings in 2006, when I was working in Sandwell with a research grant with the intention of trying to open up my portrait work. In fact, Alfie was the first subject to pose for me in his home in West Bromwich, which backed onto my old junior school. Only when I started chatting with him did I realise that I also been to school with Stu, who I met once again at Alfie’s seventieth birthday party which readers of this blog may remember me posting nearly two years ago to the day.
Alfie was a very funny man, and very generous with the tea and biscuits on the very rainy morning I visited him to draw. He was very proud of his Black Country roots and his poetry, spoken in his rich and thick local accent reflected this, his performances attracting quite a following. I’m very grateful for the time I spent with him, in which I made two good drawings, that helped give me the confidence to pursue what would eventually develop into a major portrait painting commission that would last over two years, depicting the residents of Sandwell. My painting of ‘Alfie’, a very large portrait, was the first painting that I made from the extensive drawings I made in the community. I’m never sure to this day whether he liked it or not, but he affirmed that he did. He gave a brilliant speech at the opening to my exhibition of all this work in 2008 at West Bromwich Town Hall- it had a real edge that drew everyone in. The painting is now permanently on display at the Council House in Sandwell, where he used to work, which seems fitting. He will be really missed.
'Alfie', drypoint, 2008