I have to thank Michael Armitage for helping me finish this painting. Well, not the man himself (I’ve never met him, and no doubt he’s never heard of me), but his masterpiece “#mydressmychoice”.
I’d been struggling with my painting for a few years – constantly repainting and changing the background. I knew what I wanted to say, but didn’t know how to say it. And then, about this time last year, while looking around the Radical Figures exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, I had my eureka moment. I had stumbled upon Michael Armitage’s superb painting #mydressmychoice and suddenly it seemed so obvious what I had to do.
I needed a collection of seedy, smirking, sweaty middle aged men to fill the background – all dressed in suits with patent leather shoes. So who could I choose? That was easy; you can find them everywhere: A disgraced politician; a Prince of the Realm; convicted sex offenders. I even added my own likeness, leering in the top left, standing next to someone wearing a mask, who could well be you.
The problem with this painting was that it had originally been intended as part of a larger composition with a different story. I abandoned that project, after spending an awful lot of time and money on it – it just didn’t work visually when I scaled it up to full size. But I did like this particular section, and the sentiment it evoked. And so I continued working on it. For four years. And then I saw Michael Armitage’s painting, and I knew how to fix these figures of mine.
So, after nearly four years of frustratingly little progress, it turned out to be quite easy to finish the painting in the end. Below is a short video of me adding the figures to the background.