Perils of Painting a British Prime Minister

detail from the gleaners, with Liz Truss sitting under a tree
detail from The Gleaners

I have just finished my painting The Gleaners, complete with a figure bearing a striking resemblance to the The British Prime Minister Liz Truss. The paint has barely dried, and now I’m worried that she won’t be in office by the time I get to show the painting to the public.

The 3rd November. That’s the opening night of Cluster Contemporary, when I get to reveal it to the public. I would put money on her being deposed before then. Oh well.

I had the same problem when I featured Boris Johnson in a recent painting.

boris johnson and macron in my painting The Wrestlers
detail from Men Wrestling, with Boris Johnson and Macron, both in theatrical attire.

Boris Johnson’s dethroning was a long drawn out affair. That won’t be the case with Liz Truss. And also, I was not that worried about Johnson no longer being PM, as he was such a high profile figure, people won’t forget him in a hurry. Unlike Liz Truss.

A gallery owner once warned me that some of my paintings would have a limited shelf life, because of my inclusion of public figures. They were referring  specifically to my painting Alleged Assault on Pax by Mars, with Biden and Trump.

Alleged Assault on Pax by Mars, after Rubens, with Trump, Biden and Dominic Cummings
Alleged Assault on Pax by Mars

Well, they may have a point. But I am producing these works because they are about subjects and themes I feel very strongly about: War and peace; Post Truth;  social inequality. They don’t get much bigger than that. We are living in a tumultuous time, and the rapid changes at the head of the British government just reflect that. So bring them on. Whoever is next, I’ll have my paint brushes ready.

Preparations for an art fair

painting the gleaners, a work in progress
The Gleaners, unfinished

The unveiling of The Gleaners

I will be showing my most recent paintings at the Cluster Contemporary Art Fair in London, early November. One of the paintings that I am keen to show is The Gleaners – a work in progress, shown above. I hope I can finish it in time. You can learn more about it here.
The other two paintings that I will have on display will be “Alleged Assault on Pax by Mars” and “Men Wrestling”. Both very topical during this time of increased tension, and war in Ukraine.

detail from alleged assault on pax by mars, with trump and biden
detail from Alleged Assault on Pax by Mars, with preparatory sketches.

The photo above shows  sketches for the three figures behind the sofa, who each represent an archetypal modern woman (two of them are based on Madonna and Marilyn Monroe). It might give an idea of just how much preparatory work goes into these compositions, with each figure requiring a separate sitting and preparatory drawings.

detail of painting with putin naked, on golden throne
detail from Men Wrestling

It’s always nice to talk to people about my work, and to see people’s reactions. The fair runs from 4th-6th November. I’ll try to get along on most days, but if you’re planning a visit, send me a message, and I will make sure I am there.

In the studio – working methods

work in progress detail from Alleged Assault on Pax by Mars, with Trump and Biden in the background
detail from work in progress

I am always amazed with how a painting evolves from just a vague idea into something with a life of its own. I’ve been working on this particular painting for a few months. It has been constantly changing, but I think I may have arrived at the final layout.
The section above has seen the most changes. Originally it just had the settee with the two figures on it, but that left the composition unbalanced. So then I had the idea of adding the Three Graces; or a contemporary equivalent: three archetypal women. I already had an idea for a couple of the faces (Marilyn Monroe and Madonna), but I still had to find a model to pose. This provided me with the sketches at the top for my reference.
But still this little corner of the painting looked a bit empty. And then these two male figures in the background almost inserted themselves. As well as balancing the composition, they also tied up a few loose ends in the narrative – archetypal alpha males (Presidents Trump and Biden), either waving their arms about trying to get everyone’s attention, or invading some poor woman’s space (or rather nuzzling their neck and giving an unwelcome “shoulder-squeeze).

Below is a timelapse video of the painting at an earlier stage, with a since removed figure in the bottom right.