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02 May 2019: Royal Scots Dragoon commission

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I was contacted by a young man from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards to do a set of Vanity Fair style ‘Spy’ portraits of him and his fellow Dragoons, to mark the end of a few years service together as they started going off to new postings. Being a fan of the Vanity Fair style illustrations, he stated that he had looked for an artist who did caricatures ‘in the style of’ a number of times. Luckily, a Google search led him to my Etsy page of all places (I really need to get my IT dept…i.e. Paul…to look at the SEO of this site!). After a while, I received a great series of photos. The client had orchestrated a photo shoot of him and his mates at (I’m guessing) their officers’ mess. In the photos he managed to encapsulate the spirit of Leslie Ward’s sublime ‘Spy’ caricatures. The poses, their expressions, the mood…perfect! There were close-ups of faces, badges, medals, and epaulettes. An extra bonus was that they each posed in a different uniform. The client had anticipated, and provided everything I needed. I had a good feeling about this one. I wasn’t wrong. The entire commission was a […]
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25 Oct 2018: Mysterious Deathbed Portrait

For a whole week I watched this apparently unnoticed piece of art on eBay, with hardly any bidders. I left myself a reminder to bid, by my computer. Monday / eBay / 9:15pm Monday 9:12pm came, and so did the palpitations! I always get a racing heart whenever I attempt to snipe! But snipe I did with 40 seconds to go…arghh…did I bid too soon? Have I given the other bidders time to get in there….better, quicker, more wily snipers? Miraculously no…I won it! Afterwards, I sat there with my hands shaking, I didn’t know if I was relieved or slightly disappointed that no-one attempted to bid again in the last few seconds, bumping up the final price! But (as usual) I got it at a bargain price. Why didn’t more people notice this…why didn’t people see what I saw? The description was: MYSTERIOUS TRIPTYCH IN MEMORIAM DEATHBED PORTRAIT Just the title alone caught my imagination! Being a lifelong admirer of medieval art, I was initially struck by the design of the front panels (see pics below). It looked so old from the outside. The framer was evidently emulating a medieval style. Intriguing. It had predominantly black painted oak panels, […]
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03 Jan 2018: Stranger Things Homage

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This festive season, I felt compelled to pay homage to my current favourite TV show. It rivals my obsession for Buffy the Vampire Slayer AND The X-Files. From episode one I was hooked. I loved the whole 80’s vibe. It was perfect. I know when I am watching a work of brilliance as I actually feel close to tears by perfection. I felt it while watching the opening scene of Lord of the Rings, and I felt it almost immediately with the first episode of Stranger Things. I knew I was going to enjoy it as soon as that iconic title sequence finished! Having spent my school years in the 80’s, I found the familiar imagery, the music, and the fashions, not to mention the teenage angst, a thrill. But the real testament of its brilliance was the compassion I had for the all characters. I felt choked with every heart wrenching “Papa” uttered by Eleven. Will somebody please give that child a hug!!! What an amazing little actor Millie Bobby Brown is. All of the child actors had a superior level of talent. After watching 3 episodes, I felt it my mission to get all of my loved ones […]
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21 May 2017: Sorolla Brothers

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I was attracted to these boys while trawling ebay for portraits, as I frequently do. My penchant for creepy child portraits seems to have honed my scouting radar. This one caught my eye because of it’s charming, naive appearance. Such sweet faced boys. Twins maybe? Definitely brothers. Still eerie though. This seems to be inherent with child portraits. I bid and won. I was the only bidder. My talent for spotting portraits that no-one else is interested in had paid off again! Unlike my usual ebay portrait finds, this one had a signature. J Sorolla B. Time for some detective work… A quick google search and I am astounded by the search results! Looks like this Sorolla chap is famous. Can’t be the same one surely. To my shame, I have never heard of Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, but his paintings are certainly familiar. Curiously, the seller did not play up on the potential provenance of the signature, and no other bidder seemed interested either…possibly because this portrait is nowhere near as accomplished, or indeed anything like his style. The real Sorolla’s paintings have dynamic movement, not only in the figures, but also in his impressionistic brush strokes. […]
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03 Dec 2016: Alice – A Victorian Girl

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Meet Alice. I’ve always loved that name. It was my Grandma’s name. I was very taken by this painting when I saw it on ebay. So I was very happy that I won this one. I paid a little more than I would have liked this time, but when you want something, you can’t let a few annoying, persistent bidders deprive you of it.   It is oil on card. It has no signature, so there’s no clue of the painter. The unpainted corners of the top but not the bottom suggest that it may have been cut down at some point, perhaps to fit a frame.   There’s something quite melancholic about this painting. I don’t know why, but I get the feeling this was painted in memory of the girl after death.  The clues being, the turbulent sky, her calm, wistful, innocent, far away look, and the golden locket on a black choker around her neck. Lockets to me always signify remembrance, and this one is almost incongruous. It’s prominence seems to be making a statement. I’m wondering if this locket was worn by Alice’s mother to remember Alice by after her passing. The design is curious. Does […]
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21 Sep 2016: Secret Sitters project

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I’ve long admired eye miniatures from the 18th Century. These ‘Lover’s Eye’ miniatures were often made into brooches, pendants or rings and given as love tokens. They ooze mystery and intrigue, tantalising the viewer into guessing the identity of the secret lover. Although many miniatures were probably simply a form of sentimental or mourning jewelry. See a good selection of Lover’s Eye brooches here on Pinterest. I came to the conclusion a while back that I actually love painting eyes. I could quite happily just paint eyes from now on. So this project was inevitable. I could lose myself in the detail due to the larger (albeit miniature) scale, which I don’t normally get a chance to do with my usual portraits. I was itching to get started on the paintings, but I was struggling to find a source of small oval frames. So I wondered what else I could use instead. I thought it would be novel (no pun intended) to paint them onto books instead. Over the last couple of months I’ve been stockpiling suitable vintage books to paint my ‘Secret Sitters’ on. It’s taken a while to just get a handful of them as I’m a little […]
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28 Aug 2016: Portrait of an Edwardian Boy

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I was tempted to name this sinister looking chap Joffrey! But the name Toby popped into my head while I was saving the image on my computer. So Toby he is, or Tobias if we’re being formal. Yet again, I bought this oil portrait for a song on ebay due to there being only one other bidder to battle with who gave up very easily! Maybe they thought better of trying to outbid me. Did they really want to have this unnerving presence in their home? Tobias is neatly turned out for his sitting. His outfit is formal. The outer garment has a large cape like collar. My guess is that he wears a school uniform. A clue that Tobias was perhaps either middle or upper class is that he wears a detachable ‘Eton collar’ which was very common before World War I in English prep schools (private schools to prepare the pupils for UK’s elite public schools). They were called ‘Eton collars’ because they imitated the uniform of the boys at the wealthy Eton College. Edwardian, working class school boys tended to wear collarless shirts. It seems to me that his parents held their boy in high esteem, so […]
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16 Jul 2016: At last…I’ve found my smell!

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I think I’ve finally found my smell! Approx 20 years ago while on a train going to London, I complimented a young woman on her perfume. She told me what it was and I promptly forgot. As we were leaving the train, she rummaged in her bag and produced an almost empty perfume bottle, and handed it to me! I never forgot her generosity. There was nothing on the bottle to indicate what it was except for the word ‘Balenciaga’ embossed on the base. I used it up pretty quickly! Over the years, I forgot all about it. The empty, fluted, squat glass miniature bottle with glass stopper has sat with all my other smells, too pretty to throw away. I recently had a desire to hunt it down via ebay. I only had the word Balenciaga and the empty bottle to go off, but after a bit of detective work, and one mistake purchasing the wrong scent ‘Le Dix’ (the bottle seemed to be generic for this particular perfume house) I think I’ve finally found it. It’s ‘Quadrille’. I won’t try to describe the fragrance like the poncy perfume connoisseurs do (what the heck does ‘amber’ smell of anyway?). […]
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05 Jun 2016: Pablo, portrait on tin

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Here’s another chap to add to my collection. The painting style reminds me of Primitive American paintings. A style which I find very appealing. It’s oil painted on tin, similar to my Mexican retablos, so I’m guessing it’s possible that this dapper young man hails from Mexico too. So I’m calling him Pablo. Though he could as easily be American. Pablo’s clothing suggests mid 1800s. The Victorian style is too generic to pinpoint a more accurate geographical location, although I’m saying no to British as I don’t think they painted much on tin (if at all?). I’m certainly open to suggestions. My art detective skills are not as acute as I would like. As usual the portrait is in a bit of a state, but I like that. There is a bit of exposed tin in places. It’s particularly noticeable around the pupils which is a shame, but when it catches the light it gives an eerie effect. He’s a particularly pretty boy with a friendly, gentle expression. I get the impression Pablo was the apple of someone’s eye. At the moment, I’ve plonked him on my trestle easel leaning against Ichabod (my much larger Victorian oil painting). Their sombre […]
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16 Mar 2016: Billy the Bruiser

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This month’s ebay treat. I’ve named this chap Billy. Bought on ebay, this unusual naive style portrait of a boy is in a bit of a state. There is damage and paint loss around the eye, but I think this adds to the character of the painting. I mean look at that face…the ruddy cheeks and that petulant purse of the lips tells me he’s a bit of a bruiser who’s prone to getting into fights and playing truant. It’s as though the painting itself has got into a scrap and received a left hook to the right eye! Billy the bruiser. This one is a conundrum. By the look of his expression and stiff, impatient posture, he was a reluctant portrait sitter. I can’t imagine it was commissioned, and if it was why? He’s not the prettiest kid in the world! So why was it painted? Chubby, grumpy looking schoolboys are not usually a subject matter favoured by artists. It’s quite crudely painted. Not much time was spent perfecting it, but it oozes character and attitude. I’m getting hints of Lowri and Augustus John. Is that a tartan scarf? Scottish maybe? It screams working class. 50’s? Maybe 60’s? A social […]
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