I have a tiny black and white photo of my uncle Peter in a boat on a seaside day out with my mother perhaps before the war. I don’t recall ever meeting him as he died when I was very small but this image draws me in. He was an artist and studied at the Slade in the 1930’s, even winning a couple of prizes. I think it is his profile that I like so much, the slightly weak chin and mouth and the refined but quirky nose, it curves down right at the tip a bit more than I have managed to capture here. Then there is the hat, a black trilby not a straw boater, an odd choice of headgear for a boat trip, I suppose it was all he had with him and wanted to shade his eyes.
I have made very few watercolour portraits, I find the medium too challenging to accommodate the endless tiny changes I always seem to need to make before the likeness feel right. However, I have painted this now about 15 times and I have nearly got it right. I chose to restrict the palette to just Paynes Grey as I was working from a black and white image. The blue/grey becomes a rich dark blue when very strong as well as keeping its colour in the faintest washes. If or when I do it again, I will paint the sky differently, I was trying to capture the way the dark hat’s edge turns white in the bright sunlight as well as the tips of brow, nose and chin disappearing into the brightness. I haven’t got that quite right here. Also there is a line of shadow along his jawline which is too harsh. I must keep trying I guess.