I have always loved watching Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year - even from the first series when Nick Lord won the commission to paint Hilary Mantel I was enthralled by watching the process of different artists as they struggled to capture the essence of their sitters. Condensing the process into a four hour window seemed to bring an immediacy and excitement that made for great viewing. The reaction of sitter and judges - the arguments and disagreements - the elation and disappointment, it was all there.
When Christian Hook won in 2014 - he took the format to a new level - painting a magnificent portrait of Alan Cumming in New York. It was while watching this series that I decided to put in for the show this year.
The entry criteria was a self portrait - something I've never done before. So, for me, the question would be... how do I see myself and what do I want to say about myself in paint. I knew I didn't want it to be twee or self-indulgent - it needed to be edgy and authentic - and I began with a series of photographs taken using a large mirror in my studio.
Editing these down was a process I'm well used to - having spent 20 years as an art director and designer in the fashion industry. I've worked with some of the worlds top photographers and stylist and I always look for the image that's not quite 'right' a bit 'odd' - it makes for a creative tension that pushes the viewer to notice.
The photograph I finally chose had just this kind of edge - I was looking away and there was lots of blank space beside me - it seemed to sum up the way I feel when I paint, it's just me there on my own, with my thoughts, my demons, my paint splattered shirt, my furrowed brow.
The following images show the stages of painting - I use a very limited palette of just 3 colours (plus white) - this gives me everything I need to achieve rich skin tones and a range of neutrals.
Here you can see the underpainting in monochrome followed by the colour layer and further refinement. I'm really please with the result - hopefully the judges will like it and I'll get an invite to be on the show.