Wednesday, 16 February 2011


A local lady saw some of my work on display at the Horsebridge Gallery recently and approached me with an unusual request and I have her permission to show this on my Blog now.   Her husband never met his Grandfather who was Gamekeeper on the isle of Jura (Scotland) for many years.  Grandfather died before my client's husband was born.  There are no photographs of his Grandfather in existence but elderly relatives had an oil painting of the gentleman and were persuaded to take photos of the oil painting (I understand they had to buy a camera to do this).   So I was asked to produce a portrait of Grandfather based on a selection of photos of an oil painting and a photo of my client's husband who is said to have similar eyes.  This was intended to be a surprise birthday gift for her husband.

I agreed to start the project on a 'no obligation' basis ... partway through we'd decide whether it was working out and she/I wanted to continue.

My client visited last week to see the initial stages and was happy with progress so at her request I added a background and finished the portrait.  It was very strange trying to interpret another artist's work - particularly as the original was in oil and therefore fairly 'loosely' painted.  I tried to take a 'middle path' between Grandfather's and husband's eyes/mouth shape and colour.    I've never met the 'subject' and nor have my client or her husband so it was a bit of a mystery tour  :o)

Anyway, my client collected the finished portrait today - she brought a frame from home that complemented the portrait perfectly so we were able to assemble it at my house and she presented her husband with the framed portrait at lunchtime.  I've now had a text saying he's really pleased with the portrait ... whew!!   I had offered to make any minor adjustments he might want - but as he didn't know his Grandfather its unlikely he'd know what should be changed.  

This portrait was completed in coloured pencils on Clairefontaine Pastelmat and I used Zest It solvent to help dissolve the pigment and give a more 'painterly' effect to combat the lack of fine detail.

This was the main photo I worked from ... I won't post them all

and a photo of the finished portrait (sorry it was taken late yesterday afternoon using flash so its not good).  I've erred on the side of caution regarding 'wrinkles' etc but offered to add more if required once husband has had time to think about it.    I wish I'd have thought to photograph the finished item today in daylight once it was in its mount and frame - it worked beautifully.


Pauline said...

What a great job, I think your picture has far more life Sue.

sue said...

Thanks Pauline, I had fun working in a looser style than normal, although must say I do prefer to have more detail to work from :o)

Jan said...

I have to agree with Pauline and say that your portrait seems to have better skin tones (even compensating for the flash)and looks more life-like.

Glad the clients were pleased!

K. T. Sparks said...

Sue that had to be a hard commision and you did a great job. hip hip hooray!

Dors said...

Lovely job Sue. I agree your work look softer and more natural.

Congratulations and I am sure your client was thrilled.

Keith said...

That sounds like a really tricky thing to do. I imagine it felt a bit limiting, as your own interpretation of the subject has to be filtered through someone else's. Interesting. Did you feel you were capturing the man, or the artist ?

sue said...

It was limiting Keith, especially when I realised the original painting shows the nose slightly twisted (broken) with the right nostril higher than the left (as we face it). My client didn't know if that was accurate so we compromised with me smoothing it slightly.

I also altered the eyes and mouth slightly to more closely resemble my client's husband's features, as requested.

It was an interesting challenge and one which probably won't crop up again, so another one put down to experience I guess :o)