I like working with local historian writer Stuart Haywood as much as he likes working with me in the nine years since we met.
He knows he can ask for any piece of artwork he wants and I will do it for him.
And I know that sometimes he will get diverse responses from some of the artwork he has commissioned me to do. But then, as I’ve said to him from the start when he first wanted to be drawn naked, that people tend to react in one of two ways with nude drawings, they either love them, or they hate them. There seems to be very little middle ground!
Stuart has found being drawn by me to be a very liberating experience, which I am delighted to be the catalyst of, if it has given him more confidence in himself then that’s great.
He has also been aware recently now that he’s 81 of his own mortality, since he has had a couple of health issues that have reminded him that he isn’t going to live forever, and he wanted something specific to be painted by me as momento of this momentous time.
He has jokingly called it a “snuff it” picture, and it is what he is referring to, in his typically humorous sort of way, as being a painting that he can have on his coffin for his funeral that will depict the sort of person he is, and although it will no doubt shock a few people in his life, it will also amuse others.
He has asked for the painting to be similar to the drawing I did last month for him, in that, the painting should focus on his genitals rather than his face. It was an interesting challenge for me, as normally when I do a portrait, its the face that is the focal point and the rest of the body secondary. But this painting would be the other way around. Which meant that I had to purposely pull the viewers eye to the first focal point, without it going automatically to the second one – being the face.
I went over to Stuarts house to take the photos, and he selected the one he liked best, and I gave my artistic reaction as to the composition and the way the pose lead into the viewpoint. We also discussed what to leave out of the background so that the eye would stay in the foreground of the painting, so I purposely kept the settee, cushion behind his head, and wall behind him in muted shades of green that would compliment and enhance the details of his body and the flesh tones. I also made sure that the gap under his left arm wasn’t as black as it was in the photo, and the space between the sofa arm wasn’t as dark as it was in the photo as that would have detracted from the focal point too.
I told Stuart it would take me about a week to do it for him which he was really pleased about and I know he was excited about the prospect of it!!
We had various emails back and forth in that time, as he make comments, asked questions, and I told him that the painting was coming on nicely!
I delivered it to him this week, and as I unveiled it, he said “It’s better than I expected!” and I laughed and joked that I wasn’t sure whether that was an insult or not! I knew what he meant though, he knows the quality of my work, but the picture was even better than he had thought it would be.. which is a massive compliment!
Stuart and his wife invited me out to lunch with them, which was a lovely gesture as we had a delicious meal at their favourite hostelry and they both told me that they were so pleased that I could join them, and I was very touched to be asked I replied.
And later on Stuart sent me a delightful email saying:
“Thank you for your company at lunch today. I really enjoyed the food, company and ambience.
I have had a small nap and have revisited the watercolour. It has exceeded my most optimistic hopes. It is wonderful especially when viewed from across the room. At that distance it comes alive for me. As someone who is baffled by the art of painting, it seems remarkable that something so simple as what to me at close quarters are dobbs of black paint, suddenly are transformed into lifelike pubic hair. At about 8 feet everything seems to come together.
I am also pleased with my facial features, not always the easiest element of the entire composition to capture.
All in all a lovely picture delivered with skill and panache which is your hallmark as an artist.
It will, of course eventually find it’s place on the lounge wall where it should be.”
So, happy client, and happy artist. All make for good art!