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The Antidotes

portraits in pencil and acrylic

I paint a lot of portraits. Usually the client commissioning me will provide photographic references of their own. They choose photos of themselves smiling their photo smile. Selfies complete with pouts and filters. People want to present themselves as happy, successful, attractive. Clothing, makeup, false eyelashes, eyebrows and hair.   Exotic settings – a beach, or a famous landmark view behind them. I really get bored with the over-edited fakeness of it all. I came across these old photos of Victorian women, and was really struck by the refreshing difference of the older portrait conventions. Few smiles, no makeup – though of course, that wasn’t The Look back then. And then these wacky ones I found, where they were messing about with the camera – howling, pulling faces, or covering their faces. Some looked angry, or suspicious, or frankly appalled. What a breath of fresh air – a real antidote to the phony smiles and selfies I work with most of the time. I just fell  in love with them. Antidote was also a slur referring to an unattractive women at the time. I like the subversive idea, by modern standards, that one need not strive to be attractive in a portrait. Its kind of defiant, rebellious, and that really appeals to me. They’re small – A4 or A3, fine detail in pencil, and then I add the black and colour in acrylic paint. Some have a touch of gold and my love of patterning starts to creep in. I have sold a few – thank you Di McCormack! – but most are still for sale. And there are going to be many more where these came from . . .

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