|Some initial research on my subject revealed a noted literary and Ango-Saxon Scholar with an expertise in Norse and Celtic languages. Further more, I learned that he was leaving Trinity to take on a position at the University of Oxford, namely J.R.R. Tolkien's former professorship. I could see that I was preparing to meet a very talented and special person!|
An initial meeting with Sylvia to see where the painting would hang, got me salivating! The gallery was breathtaking, with giant windows and cathedral beamed ceilings stretching up some 50 feet. I knew this was an opportunity to paint a huge canvas, and that it would need to call out to the viewer from a great distance.
Once the purpose and place for the painting was established, a sitting was arranged for Andy and me. We determined that the painting would be set within the historic Provost's residence, an old stone edifice with high windows and Rembrandtesque cool north light. A painter's dream!
Andy immediately put me at ease, and was very eager and curious about the whole process: He offered the following comments: "Sitting for a portrait artist so obviously talented as Paul was a constant joy and a perpetual puzzle. The banter and courteous pleasantries as he winked out my inner me provided an engaging external backdrop to my inner voices as a novice at the portrait game"
I found Andy to be brilliant, witty and charming: someone with whom I'd like to have a beer at the pub! I knew from talking to the folks that worked with him that these traits were first out of everyone's mouth when describing Andy. After trying several different poses, we took a coffee break and went in to the dining room, where I spotted a north facing window with perfect light streaming in. I quickly placed Andy in front of it and began to see the portrait take place in my head.....but something was still missing....
Finally, and I don't know why exactly, perhaps out of curiosity, I asked Andy if he might say a few words in Celtic, so I might hear how the language sounds. Thinking I was going to hear an academic sounding ancient text, I was completely bowled over when he began to speak. It was as if he were speaking to me as some mystical character from across time! Andy's eyes lit up, and his face twinkled with enthusiasm for the rich subtleties of his life's work, and I suddenly knew the portrait was as good as painted.
After the unveiling, Andy emailed me the following kind words:
"Just before the unveiling, and before I had seen it myself, my wife Clare texted me at the beginning of the party to say that her sneak peek of it had made her tearful, and I wished she’d been less ambiguous. No worries at all: though the unveiling itself is a blur, the spontaneous rushed intake of admiring breath was wondrous to hear, and the subsequent comments have been utterly positive. I can only thank Paul for making the whole experience not just fun, but deeply revealing: he made me look much better than I feel I really am, which is to say how I would wish to seem"