Contemporary Portraits

Mar 2023   |  Projects

Through my contemporary portrait work, my aim is to capture the essence of a person (or people), rather than an accurate/precise rendition. I typically use unconventional techniques unique to myself in my goal to create a portrait that goes beyond a simple representation of a subject in an attempt to foster deeper meaning, existence, and emotion. I want each painting to be something that only I could ever make. Something that’s unique to me and my life.

As an artist, I rarely share anything to do with my personal life (be that here on my website, or via social media, etc) however it feels relevant on this occasion in-line with this portrait project, as well as recent progress in my practice as a contemporary portrait artist.

I recently became a father for the first time and not only have I gained new motivation; I have noticed a developing shift in my perspective. Not radically different, just different. I look at things in a more inquisitive way. I mean, my mind’s always been a pretty busy place but the recent change feels quite significant. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it…

A few weeks ago, I watched my son see a bird swoop down and land next to him for the first time in the garden. As it flapped its wings and elegantly flew off, he didn’t seem remotely bewildered by it – which, in all honesty, surprised me somewhat. He just naturally accepted it for what it was. It got me thinking about this and how we all experience the world for the first time. We just accept things as they are in front of us. In that very moment, we are very present & centered – naturally. I guess we are then in our raw, animal, form… Before contemporary society gets a hold of us down the line!

Ever since that moment, I myself have been trying to imagine a world as if I’m seeing it for the first time. If an elephant were to have 50 heads, it wouldn’t be strange. If a tree used a straw to drink from a lake, it wouldn’t be weird. If a dog lived upside down on the ceiling of our homes, it wouldn’t be weird. Stay with me…

I know this all sounds a bit nuts but someone somewhere once said ‘there’s only one thing more powerful than knowledge – and that’s imagination’ (or something along those lines). I guess fatherhood has heightened my imagination. Who knows… maybe this is the infant stages of a surrealist body of work. I always did think that art should take you to a different place altogether – and is why as an artist I moved away from realism as soon as I had the chance (LINK).

Contemporary art, I believe, should question our being/reality in every/any sense. On another note, it should certainly be fun.

I want to (and intend to) keep pushing away from convention/tradition as a contemporary portrait artist, through my visual output, process, and most of all – my thinking. And on reflection, I don’t think I ever want to be fully content with my output. I never want to feel as though I’ve arrived at the destination. The idea of one-day retiring seems awful to me.

What led me towards the contemporary portrait?

Coming from where I do, people are often surprised to find a contemporary portrait artist. We in The Cotswolds are surrounded by rolling hills, valleys, woodlands, spectacular views (thanks to said hills)… the list goes on. And with that, you won’t struggle to find incredible landscape painters as part of our region’s DNA. Having said that, zooming in a little further to precisely where I grew up, and where I stayed put – Stroud, Gloucestershire – it’s unarguably a unique place with a distinctive identity unlike anywhere else. It’s full of fascinating people, with unique thinkers from all walks of life that I feel privileged to work among on a daily basis. Having grown up here, it took living and traveling away to realise just how special (and beautiful) Stroud really is and that it will always be home for me. My art is informed by our place and our people; the untampered commons I walk through each day and those I meet with and make connections. With much thanks to good old Stroud, art is, and has always been, in my veins.

Although every now and then I can’t resist putting my hand to the odd landscape, as an contemporary painter (if you wanted to box me into a loose category); the things that I believe results in me normally creating works containing some form of figuration and/or portrait, are my restlessly curious mind as well as my desire to connect on a human level. Surrounded by individuals with unique perspectives has, I believe, resulted in me being fascinated by people. I don’t purposely look for inspiration and prefer to let the moment dictate where my work goes. What I’m trying to say is that what I paint isn’t a conscious decision. I simply paint what comes naturally to me – using art as more of a force than a visual objective. The word ‘authentic’ is perhaps the most important to me, and in allowing my output to organically transpire, I feel that authenticity is made possible.

I have no plan on adjusting my contemporary process, which could at once mean that I always remain on my current work path, or indeed organically transition to something radically different to the paintings I create today. I have great trust in the process. What will be will be. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Every day excites me. The thought of not painting one day feels a bit terrifying.