One of my tutors claimed that: “there is no longer a place in contemporary art for painting.” Disinclined to take his word for it, I began to look again at Rembrandt, Reynolds, Gainsborough and Sargent. Then I looked at all the fine work done by contemporary artists who are keeping alive the traditions of realism. I understood that a painting is not a photograph because a camera looks with only one mechanical eye and that is different from a pair of human eyes.
Painting is about learning to see again. Not the unthinking gaze with which we habitually see the world, but a selective looking and observing, choosing what to look at, deciding exactly where the light turns to shade and what colours are buried there.
The process is endlessly fascinating and challenging. In portraiture, I try to show not just who I was looking at, but also to say what I saw, to capture the character of the sitter. A painting thus becomes a unique record of a time, a place, a person and an event. Hopefully it will become a treasured thing, not for the skill of the artist, but for the truth of the observation.
The author H.W.K. Collam put it very simply when he said:
“The greatest test is to turn the picture to the wall and see if it seems that someone has suddenly left the room.”