I have found that old prints, engravings and black and white photographs can be used with great effect to create posthumous and retrospective portraits. Some examples of recent commissions based on such material are shown below.

I frequently use photographs in the creation of contemporary portraits; I find that if one takes 20-30 shots of the subject, there are always one or two which stand out as being an ideal basis for a portrait.

One important advantage of this is that the client then has a good idea of what the portrait will look like, which is not the case when painting solely from life. Ideally, I will use life for the final stages.

Some of the examples shown below are life-size, but the canvas is only about 14 inches high. This means that they can be hung satisfactorily in houses with low ceilings, and do not have to be viewed from a distance, as tends to be the case with head and shoulders and half-length portraits.

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Old man outdoors
In this portrait I tried to achieve the impression of an ‘outdoor’ location, with some blurry blue/greens and ochres
man and horse
‘Man and horse’ portraits are always difficult, as the much larger horse tends to dominate the painting. Raising the man up by putting him on the fence was helpful in this composition.
A retrospective portrait, composed from two different photographs.
This painting, set in Barbados, was based on a photo of indifferent quality sent by email
A 1986 black and white photograph was used for this, when the subject was serving as High Sherriff.
This was based on a 1966 black and white photograph, when the subject was in Borneo.
A 1950 black and white photograph was used for this, with some changes to the background.


A particular difficulty here was painting the rather unobtrusive eye-glass habitually worn by the sitter.
This was based on a photograph taken at the wedding of the subject's son in 1990. A rare opportunity to paint a woman wearing a hat.
The source material was an uncoloured lithograph, so I had to research the hair colour elsewhere.
Another High Sheriff based on a colour photograph and in an outdoor setting.
An example of an outdoor portrait, which was particularly suitable for this subject.
The subject never sat for a photo during his time in the Army. For the portrait, a photo of him while on exercise in Oman was used, in conjunction with a 1962 black and white photo of the artist in similar pose!