Sitting for a portrait

by martin davis artist

Yesterday I travelled to Sheffield, UK to start the portrait of a former colleague of mine in the fire and rescue service. She is currently the Chief Fire Officer of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, one of the first cohort of female firefighters to reach the very top of a career in what used to be traditionally a very male preserve. So she deserves praise indeed for her achievements and for championing the causes of equality in many walks of life on her rise to the top. Quite rightly she has been awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal but remains modest and approachable in her day to day life……. even to the point of agreeing to sit for me for a portrait!

As it turns out I think I was more nervous than she was (she took it all in her stride of course, if you can do that sitting down) because she was my first real sitter and I think I learned far more than she did about the process. I was over-prepared about what I could achieve in a couple of hours, not being the world’s fastest painter, and about the amount of kit I could actually make use of. I was terrified you see that I might forget something vital as she looked on quietly bemused about the amount of stuff I planned to use – so I took the kitchen sink!

Anyway I found it quite distracting feeling a certain need to keep her comfortable, happy and entertained doing something she had never done before, as well as trying to paint which after all was the whole point of my visit. The time flew and I felt the pressure of expectation (mine not hers) as I explained for the umpteenth time that I could only start the portrait and she shouldn’t have any expectations that it would look much like anyone yet after that first session. She finally had to leave to attend a meeting and I spent more time tidying what painting I had managed to achieve, leaving at least half an hour after my sitter had disappeared.

It all felt so odd for me …………. but I suppose I’ll get used to it! I’ll have to if I want to do more of this kind of thing.

No pics, at least not for now. It feels strangely like an invasion of privacy and I didn’t really manage to record anything on my mobile. Picture of the finished work I promise once she has seen it and is happy with it.