A person's journey through life deserves to be recorded. It deserves the infinite attention of a portrait. They say the camera never lies. Perhaps, but a photo is like India—it shows how it is in this second in this place, then phut! Vanished ! It's never like that again.

I find that the profound concentration needed to observe the unknown details of a human being make me unconscious of what I am painting. Still, it will unfold layer after layer of magnificent facts. Nor do I know the full truth of what I've painted until years later when my sitter and I have become friends.

Sitting requires patience, however, there are phases of a portrait for which photos will suffice. If the sitter is a stranger, I find the planning of a portrait terrifying—a whole human being, unknown, in my hands! It's far better if we build some conversational ease between us first.

Among the people who have sat for me you might recognise the following: Sam Fullbrook, winner of the Archibald Portrait Prize and the Wynne Prize; the late Xavier Herbert, author of Poor Fella My Country and Capricornia; Betty Churcher, former Director of the Australian National Gallery; and Robert Dickerson, genre artist.

If you would like to commission a portrait, I'll need to get to know you to a degree. If you live overseas or outside Sydney, we can do this by phone calls, videos, photos, etc. Painting with the sitter present is my preferred way, but I also work a lot with photos taken from all angles.

Two of the portraits on this website (in the Gallery) were reconstructed without my having seen the people: Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Leon Phipps.

The living mature face tells it's own story, quite clearly in most cases; but in its absence I use words to find the essence of the character, researching libraries in the case of Australia's greatest aviator and even a little mathematics; I am proud of the trigonometry I used to lift the Southern Cross off the tarmac and level her out in the sky!

 
 
© Kathleen Petersen 2008