November 2012 – picking up the brushes again

November 2012 - picking up the brushes again


Truth be told, I was scared when I picked up a brush again. It was November 2012 and several people were urging me to paint a portrait of my daughter Rhiannon. At the time I had not painted anything for over a decade and my eyes weren’t that great either. I tried a few pencil sketches around the garden – the odd plant and flower – but ending up screwing the paper into balls and lobbing them at the garbage bin. It was no good – I had lost the knack.

Nevertheless I decided that I would give it a go. The worst that could happen would be another object for the bin. So I bought a canvas and painted it brown. I had intended something more mid-tone, but it was what it was.


Next I picked a photo to draw her from (as explained in previous posts the distortions caused by Keratoconus make photos a preferred source over real life). I picked this one because it had a bit of attitude:


And off I went, trying to paint a white under-painting.

At first I felt totally inept and Rhiannon complained (justifiably) about the quality of my work. She had never seen me do any art in her lifetime and was naturally sceptical when people pointed at my old paintings and told her that they were mine.

“Stop making me look like a clown”, she said one day. I felt so bad. Here I was making my little girl feel like this.

I should mention that I converted a disused car-port into a studio for the purpose of this. Actually, Rhiannon enjoyed this and would join me as I painted, often having a go at art herself. So not all was bad.


Below are photographs of my progress. You can see me struggling over the weeks (yes weeks!!!) You can see a gradual improvement.

In the end I was reasonably happy. Sure, the nose was distorted and the body stretched, but it was a good start. Since then I have picked up the brushes more often. I still believe that I am a better digital artist these days than a paint artist, but there is something tactile about a brush and paint that I really enjoy.

So why am I sharing this story from two and a half years ago?

I guess its because I believe that people should never give up on things. Look at the first seven of the pictures. Surely these were bad enough to make me want to chuck it all in. But I didn’t. And while the final picture is not brilliant, it is not bad either. Yes, a good beginning. But I would never have got there if I had not spent hours and hours just trying again and again to get the paint right.

Thanks for reading. 🙂




    1. Thanks ? I didn’t know if I could ?

  1. Perseverance is key!
    It seems to me one of the good things about oil painting must be its ‘fixability’, would that be correct? With watercolour, you’d have to start from scratch for each iteration.

    1. Yep – it’s that very flexibility that I love about oils – especially with my eyesight. My first three paintings (I’ve yet to display them) were in acrylics and lack that very aspect.

  2. you would not believe it, probably, but my portrait sculpts start the same way your portrait steps shown here. it is natural, that finding forms and shape need time,, everthing relates to each other, changing one piece needs the others to be balanced back,,, you did a great work, and the best is, you pushed it through. well done greg.

    1. Thank you 🙂

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