January 27, 2012
I recently delivered a couple of portrait commissions that I had been working on for the last few months. Ryan and Chloe first saw my work at the Eastside Culture Crawl a couple of years ago, when I was still at the William Clark Studios. I remember meeting them then, and Chloe really liked my Self-Portrait as a Polar Bear painting and enquired about buying it, but it was not for sale. The next year, I saw them again in my Parker Street studio, and a few months later, they got in touch and asked about commissioning two portraits similar in style to the polar bear painting.
Similar to past commissions I’ve done, Ryan and Chloe had an idea of what they wanted but also wanted me to create something that was true to my work and practice. The starting point, for Chloe, was a painting that she always loved: one section of the Wilton Diptych that pictured a white hart – an albino stag – which was the personal emblem of Richard II, for whom the diptych was painted. I was really keen on working with this because I had actually gone to see this painting many times at the National Gallery in London, as my school Central Saint Martins was just up the road from there and I used to pop in for inspiration and a bit of quiet time on a hectic day in the centre of downtown London. I had always been drawn to that particular piece of art, as the piece stood in the middle of the room on a plinth in a case because there were paintings on both the front and the back of the piece. To this day, I vividly remember the colour of the blue angels on the inside panel, set against the gold leaf background.
So we started with the idea of the white hart and the mythic significance of the albino deer, because of its rarity. Working with that idea, we needed to find an animal of equal importance. It was finally decided that the white arctic wolf and the albino deer were going to the two animals I would work with, for both their spiritual significance and visual impact. And I was more than happy to be able to paint these animals, since it loosely tied in with my Of Myth and Men series.
All in all, this project has been a year in the making, since I first started brainstorming ideas with Ryan and Chloe after I got back from my Banff residency early last year. After many back and forth e-mails and sending pictures and sketches, the paintings were finished at the beginning of this month. I am really happy with the results and even happier that Ryan and Chloe are really thrilled with the paintings and that the portraits are now hanging in their home and will be passed down in their family, for generations to come.