I did not ask. A story about self-harm and my awkward reaction

oil painting I did not ask in studio with the artist.

I did not ask my model about the scars on her arms. Despite working with her regularly and being on familiar terms, I never once broached the subject of those scars, and in my paintings of her I never showed them.
A couple of years after this sitting I read the book “A Little Life” by Hanah Yanagihara – a difficult and troubling read, but extremely moving. As I read about the main character’s self-harming and how his friends were all quietly aware of it, but never spoke of it, I thought again about my model bearing her scars in silence. That is what compelled me to find the sketches and photos from that sitting, and to produce this.

i didn't ask. portrait of artist model showing self-harm scars

I think this painting is just as much about my own reaction to those marks on her forearms, and my awkward silence.

Commission a Nude Portrait

Me posing in front of two commissions and a self portrait. Leegate Open Studios 2018.

Following on from my recent post about commissioning a portrait, I thought I’d add a quick post about less conventional portraits. Over the years, I would say that the majority of enquiries I receive about commissioning a painting are for nude portraits. Mostly they don’t lead to anything, as people often don’t appreciate the investment of their own time that is needed, if they want a successful outcome.

The two nude paintings in the photo above make an interesting case study. Both clients already had a good idea of how they wanted to be portrayed. Subject 1 (female sitter on left), was able to pose in their own home, and had few restrictions on their time. The first sitting was spent making sketches of various poses. In the second sitting I produced a more detailed pencil drawing, from which I was able to start the painting. There followed a few painting sessions, each lasting about three hours. In between I was able to work from a reference photo to bring the painting forward.

Subject 2 (male model in centre, behind me) chose to pose in the studio. We were able to compress the whole process into one sitting. We started with preliminary drawings, and then  spent the rest of the sitting taking photos. At that stage I was happy that I had all the material I needed, and was able to complete the painting without further sittings. 

I hope that sheds some light onto the process involved in commissioning an artwork. Exactly the same applies to a conventional portrait painting. I should add that I am able to work from photos supplied by the customer, if it’s not possible to arrange an in person sitting. In that situation I can give direction on the pose, background and lighting. If I am asked to work from old photos, I like to see a number of photos of the subject, to give me a better idea of what they look like, and to give me the option of swapping elements from different photos.

If you have any questions about a possible commission, please get in touch via the email on the Contact page.