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So, I cheated, OK? I’m told that people like stories, so I will tell you the story of this image.


The idea for this was not from a charismatic event that struck me, such as seeing that girl on the London Overground, which I had just painted, but from a drawing by someone else. I have just had a half decade birthday and one of my greetings was a hand drawn sketch of me in my studio, complete with cat, as I must often appear to my visitors. I looked at it continuously for a few days before making my own version of it, still full length, with my painting trolley and the cat in his basket. It reminded me too much of one of those studio interiors by Matisse, with goldfish and little maquettes of statues. Too many incidentals.  But, nevertheless…


I started afresh on the canvas, moving in closer, as it were. The top and left hand edges were offset by a line a third of the way across, defining the edge of the canvas and the zone for the figure to enter into.The important features were the rectangular canvas and the way the figure is looking round it with a brush in his mouth and more brushes in his hands. Now we are with Velasquez and Las meninas. No dwarfs, courtiers or princesses – or even the cat, but this is my studio you are seeing. I paint with my back to the window because I want the light on the canvas, so the figure is “contre jour”. On the pinboard behind me you can see flyers from exhibitions by others, Liam Hanley and Jason Nicklin; in the window you can just see the hills creeping up from the bottom. Of course, I have simplified things, omitting the trees and the white borders to the flyers. Instead, I scraped the ochre paint to give them their edges. That way they all sank back into a field of colour.


I enjoyed painting the easel because of its colour. It was made in the workshops of the Khartoum Technical Institute and given to me as a gift when I was in my early teens by someone who taught there who could see I enjoyed painting.( No, I was not a student there, he was a family friend.) It is made of locally sourced mahogany and so is very heavy and consequently very stable. The colour of the wood suggested the colour I gave to the pine stretcher.


The back of my canvases can be quite yellow but not as much as I have shown them here.  That was in response to the brown fleece and the cloudless sky.

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