Paintings inspired by photographs

My portrait of Sally Moore sadly did not make it through to the final 55 from a submission of around 2400 paintings for the BP Portrait Award 2014. Try again next year!


I am carrying on with other projects.

Is it creepy to take photos of people without them realising that you are doing so? Looking back at photographs I’ve taken in the past few months, I see that I do indeed seem to be rather fascinated by people, going about their business or gazing into the middle distance. I have sometimes gone on to make paintings of some of them and am hoping to do more.

My recent painting “The Street of Bitterness” is a case in point  and here is another image that I would like to recreate in oil paint. I was travelling past this man’s house and took a shot whilst stopped in traffic (I was not the driver). I was struck by his sombre expression and his stillness, staring out form an upper window, watching for someone of something unknown.

window portrait
He waits for whom?

I will most probably just paint the figure and the window but I want to keep the sense of looking upwards at is face.

The young men in uniform (personalised of course) making a racket on their way home from school, look so irresistibly vibrant. The photo was taken in one of the poorest districts of Havana, Cuba where every child has free education and uniforms.

After School
After School

Watching and rocking at his post the shade, the guard sometimes appears to be asleep but who could blame him, its been a long day.

The Guard and the Bell
The Guard and the Bell

The Street of Bitterness – painting

I managed to trace the steps I’d taken as I wandered around old Havana, these people are standing in Calle Amargura, outside the Conde del Castillo restaurant which is within the Marqués de San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal hotel on the corner of Calle Amargura and Plaza San Fransisco near the port.

I was struck by their expressions, a mix of boredom, anticipation of the hard work to come during the busy midday period and their suspicion of me taking their photographs. They made such an interesting composition, the two men looking over the woman’s head, the pot-bellied chef’s whites stark against the dark background, that same darkness almost engulfing the taller man, concentrating the eye on his upward-pointing arm resting on the door frame.

Amargura translates as Bitterness.

The painting is not quite finished, a few refinements and adjustments to make yet.

Street of Bitterness

“Break-time” painting

I’m taking a break from painting the portrait to let the oil paint dry for a couple of days. Here’s what I’m painting instead, three restaurant workers taking a break before the lunchtime rush in old Havana, Cuba. I was aiming to take the photograph without them noticing me, shooting from the hip but the woman caught me, though she didn’t seem to mind too much. I have just laid in the first colours, lots more detail to fill in. Its a small painting, only  30x30cms.