Saturday, 9 May 2020

Self-portrait in a treetop

Self-portrait in a treetop

What on earth can a portrait-painter do in a lock-down crisis? As I looked in the mirror, the answer was staring me in the face. I must paint another self-portrait. It's my way to reflect, to re-assess where I'm at. I know that my face will betray my innermost feelings, so it will demand honest scrutiny and focus. That's why our self-portraits look serious. I'm thinking of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo.

I'm in self-isolation on the fourth floor of my building, virtually in the treetops. The trees are my old friends, still going strong, so we greet each other every morning. As an English boy isolated in the woodlands of Worcestershire during the war, I would climb into a treetop and cradle myself in its branches, gently swaying in the breeze, dreaming about the future, listening to the drone of propeller-driven warplanes, high up on their way to somewhere else. I can still remember that soothing feeling of being cradled. Now, nearly eighty years later, I can almost touch the branches of the plane trees of my Amsterdam street. Lock-down? I'm on top of the world.

Self-portrait in a tree-top, watercolour 42 x 41 cm. 2020.

So who is this man in the treetop? Well, he does have a critical eye, perceptive but not unfriendly. Possibly just on the verge of a smile. A quiet observer, reflecting, enquiring, empathetic, thankful to still be alive in these difficult times.
Here's the Link to an earlier blog and watercolour of my old tree.


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