Madiba – 3 September 2015


A Mandela Low Res

In the lull before I start a new work this weekend, I thought I would talk about the painting that is on the frontpage of my website,

I spent 5 years in Cape Town and came to love, like the rest of the world, Nelson Mandela, known as Madiba locally.  I particularly liked his eyes (like one of my other portraits of Amy Winehouse) and the gentleness, but also steely resolve, which I wanted to paint to the best of my ability.

I used a photo from the internet of course, not having recourse to getting to him to sit for me(!) and think I managed to achieve my objective.  For some reason I have a dislike of using brown paint and avoid it as much as possible.  Obviously for Madiba’s skin colour I had to use some, but I added in shades of pinks, purples and violets wherever possible.  These days with a bit more confidence and experience, I would also have added in some of my beloved Kings Blue Deep (Michael Harding) to add interest.

Often the best part of a painting for me is putting in the delicate highlights at the end, the little white in the pupil of the eye, and the hint on the nostrils – a tip Rolf Harris gave years ago on one of his painting programmes.

The shirt was a nightmare to paint, as I am very impatient with this sort of work.  For flesh tones I can be endlessly patient, but material like this makes me want to climb walls!

The hands in the internet photo were quite pixellated, so my partner kindly modelled for me, so possibly the fingers are slightly longer than they should be….

The final painting was sold to a buyer in Johannesburg, so I am very happy that Madiba has stayed in South Africa.  It is one of my all time favourite paintings.

  1. September 07, 2015 by davidjrogersftw

    Thank you for your explanation. I had wondered about that painting. Also very interesting, as always, to hear about your process. You might tell me that I’m wrong, but I have always believed I have no talent in painting. But as a writer, I’ve learned that it’s the detail that separates the good writer from an average writer, so I was very happy to read about the importance of detail to you, a fine painter.

  2. September 08, 2015 by michewatkins

    Ah thanks David. I am sometimes not too sure about detail as a painting can then become overworked so I have to be careful there. I would like to be a looser painter sometimes but we are what we are and I think I have a mid-way style these days, not ultra realistic but not too impressionistic either. What I would dearly love now is for a gallery to find me and take me on… Any marketing advice there?!!! By the way your writing skills are fab and I much enjoy reading your blogs on the trials and tribulations of us creative types. Thanks x

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