I began drawing children around the time I had my first child.
Photographs always frustrated me; they never “said” enough somehow, and only captured a moment in time, rather than a drawing or portrait, which is usually painted over a period of time and several sittings, taking in different moods and times of day. I began first to draw and paint my own son, and was soon asked to draw others.
I used only terracotta Ingres conte crayon highlighted with white chalk, to start with, but was requested to make coloured studies, and so moved on to use soft pastel and conte crayon. I work on a tinted French paper, which has a nice soft texture, and subtle colouration. It works well with skin tone, and stays well “in the background”, which is what is wanted.
I do work in oil, and in watercolour, but I use pastel as my preferred medium particularly for children, as it suits the subject so well. I was featured in the Daily Telegraph supplement a while ago, as a children’s portrait artist. As you can see from the article, styles and prices vary considerably. I was subsequently requested to paint the youngest son of the writer of this article. He appears as a very small boy on this website. I wonder if you can guess which one?
I work mainly from the studio in my house in Buckinghamshire, although I am prepared to travel if necessary in order to complete a portrait. I have even split sittings over time between countries and continents, so that children can be painted from life.
This is vital, as photographs do not give enough information to work from without some time with the subject, even if they are very young, and have to “sit” in their mother’s arms.
I have a library of video tapes – cartoons, stories, etc, and a television for the children to watch if they would like. Many children will watch for a while, and then begin to chat to me, and we have a running commentary and so it is possible to me to capture the life and vitality of the person sitting in front of me. I never expect anyone to sit perfectly still, except maybe for a few seconds, as this just does not happen.
Sometimes with small children it is necessary to have more shorter sittings, with little breaks in between.
I am always happy for children to sit with parents with them, if they want, or next door maybe reading the paper, if not. The most important thing is for the child to be relaxed and happy, and of course, not bored!
I hope to make each portrait something to be treasured for generations to come, a likeness that not only resembles the child at the time, but will still be recognisable as them later in life. I aim to capture that special quality that is in every soul, an individual beauty that is their life and personality. I also feel that childhood is so brief, one wants to catch it somehow, and preserve it before it has grown up and passed into another realm.