I had completed two paintings for my new Portrait Collection. I AM NOT WHO YOU THINK I AM and MARTIN DOREY. Twelve more to go.
One evening I watched the programme Beauty and the Beast. It featured two women. One obsessed with her own beauty, who proudly told the interviewer that she had undertaken endless surgery, so she could make herself perfect. She was then introduced to a woman called Susan Campbell Duncan.
The so called beautiful woman took one look at Susan and could not conceal her shock. Susan has a facial disfigurement as a result of damage to her face from extensive radiotherapy as a child and has also endured a lifetime of surgery to reconstruct her face. The other woman ( I cannot even remember her name) struggled to interact with Susan because all she saw was the disfigurement, she could not see the person, she judged her on what she saw. Whereas Susan who was friendly, had a great sense of humour and very feisty, took all this in her stride.
By the end of the programme, the so called beauty became uglier because of her attitude and abhorrence of Susan’s imperfect face. Whilst Susan despite her facial disfigurement became more beautiful because she shone through. She was the star of the programme..
I had found my third person for the Portrait collection. I really wanted to paint her, I had heard of the organisation Changing Faces and contacted their London Office, explained what I wanted to do and asked if they knew Susan, they did. They put me in contact with their Edinburgh Office and I wrote a letter to Susan via their office, and she agreed for me to paint her portrait.
I travelled to Edinburgh to meet her. I really liked her, she was smart, funny and very entertaining and it was a great interview. She even offered to send me a spare eye, if it would help. I laughed so much I nearly fell of the settee.
She told me she had written and read a poem in Scottish Parliament. It starts ” What do you see when you look at me, tell me what do you see”, it finishes with the line ” What do you see when you get to know me”. The reading of the poem is on her audio description. It is brilliant.
When the work was shown in Hereford, three teenage girls who saw the painting, did not really like the look of Susan. I told them why I chose her. They looked at all the portraits and I asked them to pick out their favourite, thinking they would choose the young man. They chose Susan as their favourite because ” we think she looks kind and has a nice face”.