Portrait Tales

The idea for ‘Portrait Tales’ came about while Professor Peter Littlejohns sat for his portrait.   Throughout the sittings I found myself transfixed by the stories I was being told.  It seemed that within those 8 hours a life story had been divulged.  It dawned on me that as a recording it would be an excellent accompaniment to the painted portrait and would be of huge interest for his family’s future generations.

The portrait is after all a visual record of someone to be appreciated by people in the present and into the future – it seems fitting to have an audio recording to complete the picture.

If this is of interest to you please contact me:



Two heads are better than one.

“I have 3 homes. Actually only one really, the other two are spiritual.

The real one is in Clapham, South London. The other (preferred) two are Llangattock, in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales and Brewster, a village on the north shore line of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. The former being the location of Cwm Bach farm an idyllic rural haven of peace and tranquillity. The latter on the windswept Atlantic coast where the world’s highest tides create a seascape and shoreline of unbridled magnificence. Both stimulate all the senses with natural splendours but keep a sense of history – from the welsh mines just over the hills to the whaling Industry in Province Town on the northern horizon. My wife Tercia and I love this combination of “no humans” and yet a sense of “human activity and endeavour ”

Cwmbach Farm is an ideal base for this as we often attend the Hay on Wye Book festival, combining silent walks and noisy literary challenges. A few years ago as part of the week’s cultural celebration we followed the artists trail to visit local studios along the Usk valley. It was there we first came across the Welsh Academy of Art established by Lucy Corbett. Originally in the stables of Glanusk Estate and now in its own establishment – the old primary school at Cwmdu. We were immediately impressed by her traditional style forged though her Florentine pupillage. Talking to Lucy we soon arranged for Tercia to have her portrait painted as part of a 50th birthday celebration. The following year a return to Wales witnessed quiet mornings as the first sitter in the new school studio (which would not be out of place in any Italian master’s workplace) and afternoons in the teeming bookaholic Welsh border town. This was no instant process – 5 mornings of sittings, 6 months of oil paint drying and then varnishing (with traditional varnish of course) and then the framers and on the wall 9 months later.

It was worth it.

So much so that we decided that I would have my portrait done to celebrate my 65 years.

However a diagnosis of cancer – now in remission – pushed us to have one done 3 years early. Back to the studio and this time it was me sitting on the elevated chair. When is the last time you just sat still for a couple of hours each day contemplating life ? It was wonderful. You are not silent. You solve your and the world’s problem by talking to a person whose sole job is to capture the “essence of you”. Rejuvenating therapy and you get to take a “goody bag” home too.

So we are now 2 months into the 6 months drying period and cannot wait until Christmas to vanish frame and hang.

So why not spend the money on a photographic session with an instant perfect reproduction of what you look like (or these days what you want you to look like). I suppose the answer is, the sense of history and of participating in a unique experience. I liken it to going to see a live play as opposed to a film. Both are created by talented experts, both superb in their way but for me the immediacy of the live play, the personal relationship between the actors with the audience will always beat the (take 2) film.

Being painted is an experience that everyone should contemplate. Modern walls are not only for photographs and prints. New traditions need to be started.”

Peter Littlejohns

Professor of Public Health King’s College London

July 2017

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