Betty, 100


I just realised I could say the rest here!! I had a strange, small reference of Betty, sitting in her wheelchair behind a Perspex screen with a loudspeaker to her ear – which is good as she is very deaf. I suspect many would have replicated this perhaps sad image of isolation and confusion. However, it is perhaps because I know Betty this replication did not happen. Somehow Betty would not let me. She was, and still is, a strong and a very beautiful woman even in her confusion in dementia. She grew up in an era where you had to be strong and get on with things regardless of the difficulties. For me the resulting portrait raised again the question of what a portrait is and what it is `supposed to be’. Many strive for `likeness’, and photographic replication. But is a portrait purely a very accurate replication of what you see? Is it not a result of the artist’s response to the sitter? Is it a response to the sitter at any given time perhaps influenced by what the artist feels in that moment, what music is playing, what external factors are at play in the immediate environs or world events, or even the commissioner of the portrait if there is one? All I can definitely say is that when I felt a little bit emotional looking at it I thought the portrait must be finished!

This is a wonderful portrait of what is clearly a very powerful character. I agree with everything you write. I often work from a photo but ONLY when I know the person very well and am familiar with their personality and general expressions - not just the one caught for the camera. Plus I take lots of photos. I agree that I know when I've got there is when I connect with the painting - even if others don't! Hence why I think the best ones I've done are the people and friends that are closest to me in life. And when I look back at them they invoke powerful memories. Funnily enough this is true of animals and pets hence why I'm not so keen on commissions. anyway am only an amateur so that doesn't happen very often!

This is really poignant, Gudrun. Beautiful.

Absolutely totally agree with everything you've said, Gudrun. Her strength shines through this super piece of work.

A strong portrait of a strong person, Gudrun. Well done!

All that you’ve spoken about is there Gudrun, in the plains and contours of her face and expression. Beautifully put and beautifully painted.

Brilliant portrait of a very determined looking lady! Love how she still wears lipstick.

A fine portrait, and thank you for sharing the story.

Very interesting comments - understand just what you mean. I often paint from photos because of physical limitations but nearly always when I already know the person. I think it would be very difficult to paint a portrait having never met the person. Sometimes a posed photo may give absolutely nothing of their personality. Really good painting - does convey bags of personality.

Hang on Studio Wall

Betty, 100. 30x40cm oil on canvas. This portrait is a result of some very interesting sessions. I do not normally go on about what inspires me or why I do things the way I do because I want people to look at my work with their own eyes and respond to the work uninfluenced by me. That is not to say that I will not answer questions, but for me art is how you respond to it. I was going to add more, but the system won't let me. See Exploring Art for more info.

About the Artist
Gudrun Ståhl Sharpley

I am a figurative artist who revels in working with figures and faces, shapes and colours, focusing on movement within my work as my main theme. Over the years, I have studied old masters and new and influences in my work reflect admiration for the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci and the…

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