Sisters Catherine and Rebecca, playing “Hide and Seek” in their garden.
This portrait was painted in acrylic, from a series of photographs which I took on a Summer afternoon in the garden of Redmaynes’ home. The finished portrait measures 150x100cm.
The process of working on a portrait commission like this is a complex one. It starts with a discussion between me and the family commissioning the painting about their wishes for the portrait, perhaps certain ideas they have formed, wether life sittings are possible or we need to make an appointment for a photo-session. On this meeting we also discuss size and price.
Next meeting with Redmaynes was a photo-session at their home. It was a glorious August day, and the garden looked splendid. So, after a couple of pencil sketches indoors, we went out to see what we could see. Girls were showing me around and I was taking photos on my little digital camera.
For my purpose, I need not a sophisticated tool, but a fast and light one. The quality of the images is not an issue. All I need is to capture the essence of a person, preferably in motion and unaware. Especially with children, I am most interested in expressing the untainted freshness of a child, the sincere joy of living. That’s why I prefer to take photographs outdoors, while they play, so that I can catch them when not posing for the camera.
Catherine and Rebecca, at the time when the photographs were taken, were exactly the age when they could still easily loose themselves in a game and not be self-conscious in front of a stranger (me). Being on their own turf, of course, helped. And the wonderful weather too!
Having spent a couple of hours with the girls, and taken around 400 photographs, I left to process the material. This is the next stage.
I spend time working with the photos: looking for the most characteristic and engaging expressions of each person, thinking of a composition to make it a believable narrative, looking for the best setting for the story. I made a couple of composition mock-ups and emailed them to Redmaynes to mull over and give me their feedback.
At this stage, I want the commissioners to tell me if I am on the right path. Also, as I work with the photos, the images I get are only glimpses. Quite different to life sittings where the sitter and I spend some hours in conversation – more time to get to know my subject. So, with photos, I need the sitters to tell me which images capture them in the most true way (or rather the way they like the most :-)).
After a short exchange of emails, we settled on a compositions, size and final price of the portrait, and I could make a start on it.
A portrait of this size and detail takes me at the least 3 months to paint, if there are no other concurrent obligations.
The day came when the Redmaynes came to see the finished portrait and it was a success! They commissioned the frame as weel, which made the size of the painting even bigger. Fortunately that was alright, as they decided to move house to accomodate the painting.