John O'Flynn - Artist

John O'Flynn - Artist

Sky Arts Portrait Competition - 3

How does a painter approach a portrait where the sitter is looking down, engaged with a book, wearing a large & stylized hat, and the setting is highly themed? 

Arriving at the "Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2013"  Dublin heat in July I had not heard previously of the young sitter David Rawle, or his Sky TV series "Moone Boy". Mistakenly - for I don't watch much TV! - I ran with the idea that his TV series must feature a young person in the grip of a dramatic "hero vs villain" story (the mainstay of young person's fiction - so I thought!) and that the flowers, on the book cover as well as wallpaper, must be an active (and perhaps malign?) participant in the story (why else would they be there?). A conventional portrait being impossible, I decided to create an overall effect influenced by what might be going-on inside David's head. He was a very good sitter - very still throughout the four-hour sitting: just as one can imagine a young reader would be sitting in the corner of a downbeat room (indicated by the battered couch) in the grip of a story in which giant animated flowers come alive! I tried to depict the flowers as if on the cusp of writhing on their elongated stems, and dramatize the lighting to indicate a darkening room as the drama of the story overtook the reader! 
 
Reflecting later, I think one would need an art-advisor to know where to "take" this painting from here: is it intended as a book illustration - in which case the theme probably needs to be played up even more, or is it intended for the gallery-market - in which case it probably needs to be considerably more subtle!

 

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