Almost from the moment I first noticed the man who was to become my boyfriend I wanted to paint him. I remember him looking over his shoulder at me as we sat in a friend’s car and being struck by his eyes; greyish, blueish with a golden centre and set off by an intriguing scar under the left lid. He had long, thick black hair and lips like a pre-Raphaelite angel.
Unfortunately I had only just got back into painting then and attempts to paint him never worked. I think this is partly because we take our idea of a person not from a static image but an ever-changing memory reel of moments. No portrait can ever capture all those movements, micro-expressions and emotions. I would try to draw him from pictures and from life and we both decided my attempts weren’t up to much.
The years passed and then, how many years ago I don’t really remember, he pulled a particularly silly face, puffing out his cheeks and sticking his lower lip out in a pout. I think it was probably meant to look puppyish but somehow “fish” was what sprung to mind. With Arthur Rackham’s style in mind, I did a quick ink and watercolour of a pouting merman being teased by a group of mermaids.
Last year I did a further six fishboy paintings charting hapless fishboy’s search for the good things in life – mostly fish to be honest but he is also looking for love I suppose. I will put the full set on here shortly.
This year I also, finally, got as close as I have come so far to capturing his likeness in a proper portrait. It’s not quite right (get an angle wrong by a fraction of a degree and a likeness is lost) but it is a fair attempt.
My question though is this: Which works best as a portrait? An oil in fairly traditional style, or a series of jokes poking gentle fun at my partner’s sometimes simple needs (tuna, love and bicycles)?