About the painting
I first met Carol Ann Duffy at a poetry reading in Much Wenlock. Introduced by a mutual friend I subsequently asked her if she would sit for a portrait. On seeing some of my work she agreed. With regular contact it was to be over a year before we came to a date on which I would finally set up my easel to paint her.
I had planned this painting prior to my meeting with Carol Ann D. Poetry is an inspiration to me. It’s ability to strike such strong imagery and evoke our deepest emotions with such immediacy is everything I strive for in a painting. And while I wanted the portrait to celebrate the excellence of her work, it was also important to commemorate the first woman (341 years) to become the Poet Laureate. The painting is the first of a series of works of contemporary poets I wish to make, celebrating the growing popularity of poetry and spoken word artists, particularly among the youth of today.
While arranging the sitting with Carol Ann she asked me if I’d (also) be interested in painting her with Gillian Clarke (National Poet of Wales). They were both teaching at a poetry/writing retreat (Ty Newydd), North Wales at the time. Gillian and Carol Ann are old friends and this opportunity to paint them together was the realisation of the portrait beyond my original idea. Initially I wandered around the old stone house searching for a suitable place. I settled for an area which had been converted to a conservatory. The light being good, I liked the fact that it was neither inside or outside and that behind the seat where they were to sit, a very old stone wall forming part of the house became the basis of my idea to bury and reveal her poems, emphasising poetry's timelessness. So over time, painting the portrait, fragments of poems became hidden which can now only be seen (possibly) by X-ray. As the painting progressed its underlying theme became about time/longevity. I didn’t want there to be any formal pose for this painting. I wanted them both to be as relaxed as possible. As a result the afternoon was full of chatter, reading poems, telling stories, writing poems, quiet moments of contemplation, all while I painted. The essence of their characters was crucial to the success of the portrait and as with all my sitters, I encourage talking. At the end of the day we exchanged drawings and poems, all of which I shall treasure.