A friend was in touch several weeks ago asking if I would accept a commission to paint two members of his family. I’m not known for my skills as a portrait artist – and when my friend Chris gave me some more details about what he was looking for, I decided to go ahead and accept the challenge. The painting is to be a gift, and the two family members are cats. Black cats.
Chris and I exchanged a few notes about my approach to the work – and we agreed this should not be a portrait in the traditional sense. Chris gave me a sense of the personalities of the two cats, and it was over to me. I spent ages thinking about how to represent these two family members in an appropriate way, something which would both resonate for Chris and Paula, for it is she who will receive the gift, and be a satisfying challenge for me as the artist.
The more I thought – the more my nerves heightened. Chair and Paula love these cats, what if I fail to capture a good likeness? Portraiture is a really tough art form, but I kept plotting, until my ideas formed into something I felt would work. I decided the best way to represent the cats was to try and let their personalities show through, and in order to do this – the cats themselves needed to be largely invisible. Here’s what I came up with.
Chris and I arranged to meet so I could show him the work in real life. I was nervous heading for our rendezvous…what if he doesn’t like the work? On my way to the meeting I stopped off to hand over some watercolour postcards to someone in my network and I showed them the painting. ‘If he doesn’t want it – come back here and I’ll buy it off you’. OK – I’ve captured something here, that feedback settled my nerves a little. I went on to see Chris, and I’m pleased to say the picture has been signed, framed, and handed over.
I’m truly grateful to Chris for asking me to do this. It was a challenge and it was fun, and the end result really works. It’s great to see what can be done in a supportive environment when working with a willingness to try something new.