Posted by: leafvigurs | February 23, 2012

A Portrait

The moment he came in the door I wanted to draw him. He was as yet unstooped by age, with white shoulder length unruly hair and a meandering beard creeping across a lined face. He was chuckling to himself, and his eyes twinkled behind spectacles. He weaved slightly as he walked in…and as he walked out too. The tutor looked round to see where he’d gone, then got on with setting up chairs and a table.

There were in fact two models at the portrait class. The other, a proud black woman,  sat quickly and held her pose. As we began the old man bumbled back into the room, and was herded towards a chair encircled by our easels. A pose was set and I started to draw.  He sat still for about a minute then turned round, to talk to  the other model behind him. Somehow she  fended off his attempts at conversation without moving. He turned his attention back to us. He rocked back and forth, talked, joked, laughed and gesticulated. He was Scottish, and held strong opinions on philosophy, celebrity and George Galloway.  He did not support Scottish independence. He asked a girl in the class why there were  so many zips on her jeans. She didn’t seem to know. As his attention moved around the room so did his posture. It was like trying to hit a moving target. I stopped trying to measure, and take proportions. I stopped worrying about accuracy. Throwing charcoal at my board I tried to somehow capture his spirit. I started to wish I’d used a bigger piece of paper.

During the tea break he sung an old folk tune. And he was good. The talking stopped and we stood and listened, then some nervously joined in. When he stopped singing there was silence, then applause to hide our sudden emotion.

After the break he was quieter, although he never quite stopped moving. Though his face seemed defined by old laughter lines, I thought I saw sadness too. Lost in his own thoughts, at the centre of our focus, he seemed very alone. It is a strange experience, intently studying a person in an attempt to draw them. Sometimes you almost forget they are there. I think at times he forgot we were there too.

In the last session I ground four sticks of charcoal into the paper trying to fix him to it. I did not succeed.  His spirit was too elusive and it escaped me. I hope to one day have another chance.


  1. Wow!! you have a way of taking the reader by the hand and gently leading them into the room, and seeing all you see……….thank you x

  2. And that is why you practice …the constant elusive pursuit of perfection,

    Often resulting in the pretty darn good along the way

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