Circling the subject

Quite a lot of my recent work has been about faces, from simplified prints to a recent series of watercolours. So then I thought it was appropriate to review work I did several years ago, which was based on newspaper photos, chosen fairly randomly on the basis of visual interest. At that time, the paper I regularly read had a sort of design ‘tic’, where all the people mentioned in a feature would be shown in a block grid of close up portraits. I was interested both in the detail and texture of the faces, and in the degree of repetition, created by the presentation.managersThis is an acrylic painting on board, approximately 3ft (Im) square. It sold quite soon after it was done, and I haven’t seen it since. It lives quite vividly in my memory. The subjects were all managers of football teams, at the time quite well known but relatively unremarkable people, faces you wouldn’t necessarily pick out in a crowd. It was the juxtaposition that intrigued me.

The watercolours I’m doing currently are derived from the family photos that have already been the subjects of other paintings. In this case the visualisation involves extracting each face from the photo as a detail, sometimes small and difficult to decipher. I’ve made several studies and the two shown here are to me the most successful, because I’m looking for an abstract quality to the interpretation – they are not portraits as such, although the people are or have been significant in my life. Both are on A4 size watercolour paper.img121


Family portrait continued

Among the early work in this series was a simple watercolour crayon drawing of a single figure – my grandmother on my father’s side. There is something appealing about the pose and the lack of definition in an ageing face. It seems this one will also lend itself to clay modelling, and I’m halfway through a clay version. This drawing is A4 size.


This led to using the image as a repeat – almost a pattern element. Throughout my work there is a recurring theme of seated figures in rows. The group of three uses watercolour crayon and watercolour washes, and is approximately 14 ins (35 cm) square.misc grannies