Earlier this year I announced I’d be painting Teach Us Consent founder and CEO, Chanel Contos. This work was completed and, in this post, I’m sharing the development of the piece.
Upon accepting my request to paint Chanel’s portrait, the first step was to conduct a survey of what already existed of Chanel on the internet in public-facing and social media (Fig 1). This is because the portrait of Chanel, once completed, would initially be a public work. This is opposed to a work being privately commissioned. A portrait that is being seen by the public, in my opinion, is a statement about that person, and one that’s usually endorsed by the subject. Of course, that doesn’t always happen!
But in our case, once I’d appraised Chanel’s public persona and that on social media, I created some small ink sketches as a starting point for our discussion.
Once we’d agreed on the pose and outfit, the next step was to conduct a photoshoot.
I shared all the photos with Chanel and indicated my top three preferences. Chanel did the same and we agreed on an image and pose that we felt would best convey her portrayal. Painting a portrait is always a collaboration for me. You and I may not agree on everything but what we do agree on will form the basis of the portrait I create. Chanel and I had complimentary thoughts on the direction we should take, so it was pretty smooth sailing.
Regardless of how you paint, the process will often take you on a wild ride of highs and lows. The lows are when it doesn’t look right, or not that great. The highs are when it’s looking good and even better, when it’s looking better than you previously imagined.
For me, painting provides many life lessons; these are lessons that can be applied or reflected in other areas of life. That’s why I love painting so much. A painting has a life of its own. An artist, their artwork, and their subject are all a part of a kind of metaphysical waltz that traverses the arrow of time. Chanel’s portrait will most likely outlive all of us and will take on a new life, a doppelganger of Chanel for generations to come.
This work took two to three months to complete. I tend to liken paintings to wars, not because they’re horrible but because I like stories of stewardship and courageous humanism. Some days you win; some days you lose. Reflect on lessons learned. Apply them next time. Keep going. Never give up. And funnily enough, those are the same qualities that attracted me to Chanel and the wonderful advocacy work she conducts on behalf of Teach Us Consent.