This is my first completed acrylic painting in my new direction– and one of the rare times that I have painted a portrait.
This is Phoenix Pearl, my step-granddaughter, a girl who has always been a fascinating mix of innocence and intensity. I have been using her as a model since she was a toddler.
Her mother sent me a photo of Phee dressed in white with a leaf behind her ear. It inspired me to make this painting. When I worked up the compositional sketch she was in a rainforest, but over time it changed into this stand of trees. And later the butterflies arrived.
For me the elements of a painting come with no explanation, without me trying for symbolism – I just ‘know’ what is in them. Later I try and understand what they mean. It is much like dreaming. You create your own dream, but it doesn’t mean that you know what it ‘means’.
But I am conscious that, at ten years old, she is reaching her final years of childhood.
And thinking of that my thoughts turn to fairytales, specifically the many stories of children entering and journeying through deep dark forests. Phoenix is on the edge of the dark woods of adolescence and perhaps in my desire to lend her protection the butterflies come into the scene – hopefully winged guardians to guide her through to the other side.
Here is a link if you want to know more about the Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize.