At last I can return to Sally’s painting. I’ve decided to work from a new photograph taken at hers in those heady days when freedom as we knew it, nay took for granted, existed. When Covid was a foreign, Eastern problem. When summer holidays were being discussed and ferry crossings to Calais were tentatively booked for June. When just trying to find a spare week in a bustling diary seemed nigh on impossible. June seemed a long, long way off. I take a quick volley of photos of Sally with her beloved Flo, her cherished long legged Jack Russell.
They both look to camera and after clicking away on my iphone I have a good series of photos to work from. There’s no particular special lighting but the sun is shining on this late January afternoon and the pictures I had taken back then are perfect to work from. As is the norm first I crop and edit the picture on my laptop in the most simplest of ways. I change nothing of the proportions but play around with hues and tones to give the most flattering effect. Then I print out two images on glossy photo paper; one a standard 5” x 7”, the other an 8” x 10” to provide more accurate detail. Just two months later I’m ready to start and Sally is battling Covid-19.
She’s been in hospital and remains very poorly but at least she’s at home, albeit alone. I take to calling her once a day to make sure she is okay, although I fear that what ever time I call her I will wake her from a much needed recuperative sleep. I also fear that I will call her and her phone won’t answer. The painting was started on the 8th April and I’ve attacked it with such gusto that I completely forget to take photos along the way to show not only my progress but how the portrait evolves.
After a couple of intense days of painting I could deem the painting almost finished but when I stand back to admire my work, it is wrong. The proportions are wrong and the angle of Sally’s face is completely out of line. I start all over again on a bigger canvas reminding myself to take breaks, to stand back and appraise my work as I go along. It works and the first part of the painting to be nearly finished is Flo’s head, who stares back at me looking quizzically directly into my eyes. As I type this post there is just the faint hope that by the time my painting is finished lockdown might have been eased enough fo me to deliver the painting by hand, after all Sally is no longer infectious.