Putting together a portrait collection was proving to be quite difficult. How many paintings? Who do I choose to paint? Why would I want to do this? What title could l use? What would be different about it? How long would it take me? Where would I show the work? Endless questions.
First of all the portraits had to be tactile and have audio descriptions, so Visually Impaired visitors could share the art experience. Already I could see pound signs floating all over the place. I had no idea what the collection would cost to put together. I applied to the Arts Council and was turned down twice. Those rejections just spurred me on, dammed if I was going to stop now. I loved the idea.
A photograph of a tribal mask was the first part of my inspiration. Perhaps I could just do mask, with a touch of humour. Nope that was not exciting me. So rather than do nothing, I played with ideas and used the image as a starting point.
I imagined a second generation teenage girl. At home she conforms to her parents way of life and culture and her hair and dress sense show this. BUT this is not who she really is. When she is out with her friends she lets her hair go free, she has a lower neckline BUT this is not who she really is. She is torn between two cultures. The painting as shown is called I AM NOT WHO YOU THINK I AM.
I was on holiday in North Devon. Very early one morning I met a young man on the beach. He had a VW Camper Van, wild hair and turned out to be great company. His name was Martin Dorey and he had just started filming a new TV series about his book One man and his Camper Van. Two hours later, we said out goodbyes.
That morning when I spoke about my meeting with Martin I said ” Well, he was not who I thought he was”. THAT WAS IT. I would paint seven women and seven men of all ages and choose them cross section of society. The collection would address those initial assumptions we make about people when we first see them,and how often we can be so wrong.
I contacted Martin Dorey who agreed to have his portrait done, finding and meeting the other sitters was fantastic fun and often very moving. .