This particular portrait came about completely by accident. Mike was in our back garden where we were looking through a great pile of photo albums. It was a bittersweet experience for both of us — him because his late wife, Sue, was obviously the love of his life - smart, kind, intuitive, funny - and me because I had never met her and was saddened by that. I wanted to paint Sue as a gift for Mike but was really daunted by all the small photos which might not have enough information for me to paint them. We looked through all of the albums pages, found the photos which we both liked, and talked about their lives together.
Although the sun was shining, we were on our largely shaded stone patio and I happened to look up to see a lovely shadow pattern playing on Mike’s face. He was obviously thinking about Sue, gently smiling to himself, and so, being a typical painter, I grabbed my phone and took a picture. I can’t remember if Mike himself looked at it, but I knew it had caught him. The painting process bore that out, and the only remaining challenge is to decide whether to create a background (probably indistinct greens to contrast with the ruddiness of a late summer tan) or to just leave the rubbed Indian Red of the underpainting, a solution which has the virtue of sincere simplicity, given the subject.
Although I am still unsure of finding the right photographic references to capture Sue, at the very least Mike will have a painting of himself thinking about her lovingly. It will be titled “Remembering Sue,” of course.