Children are a joy to portray in oil on canvas… please note that I didn’t say “to paint”, as someone would be bound to interrupt with whoops of derisive laughter!
Not all the little people who have sat for me have done so willingly; anxious parents’ warning about sitting still and being quiet for the three hour session, never help! A two-year-old who sat on his mother’s lap was no problem. She kept up a constant stream of conversation with me, interspersed with questions like “how are things going” and “when can I look at it”. Surprisingly, he rarely glanced in my direction – totally absorbed in watching her mouth move.
If that was her plan, it worked for the first hour. During the five-minute break, he saw my first impression and, surprisingly, recognised himself. The second and third session, that day, were less easy because his gaze was now on me and every few minutes he wanted to look at it! In spite of everything, I found him adorable and wanted his good opinion of the portrait as much as his parents’.
From the age of three, after the first visit when mummy has watched over us both, little sitters have been happy to be left alone with me and they have been the most delightful company. My studio refrigerator, which keeps my oil-filled palette fresh, overnight, also houses chocolate (of course) and one little girl must have seen it when I retrieved my equipment. When sipping drinks on our first break her eyes widened sadly as she stared into mine… “I am so-o-o hungry. I didn’t have any breakfast today.” I wish all problems were so easily solved!
A very chatty four-year-old told me that he liked drawing. He was very good at drawing cats and had coloured crayons. I was delighted that he was happy sitting still but wondered what else he could find to say on the subject. Towards the end of the session, I realised that for most of the morning he had been staring at a jar of old brushes – not used much but too good to throw away. As his mother’s footsteps approached he said, “I might be allowed to paint if I had any brushes – but I haven’t got even one!” No prize for guessing what I did!
A five-year-old, the daughter of a friend, was a lovely, lady-like little girl. her manners were impeccable and she seemed wise beyond her years. She was a stickler for accuracy and sometimes even drove her mother mad when telling daddy what they had been doing during the day. Woe-betide mummy if she said they’d stopped for ice cream and not mentioned the coffee and orange juice!
While posing for her portrait, she prided herself on being able to keep still and silent… My friend had brought a magazine with her and all was quiet when the silence was broken by a very loud fart. She looked at her daughter in astonishment and asked … “Really …haven’t you anything to say? ” The child, without even turning her head, said, “I haven’t finished yet”, and promptly released another, even longer than the first! While we choked back our laughter, we heard a very clear, “I beg your pardon”.