A surprising new creative hobby – Painting Portraits

I started painting at the start of lockdown and here’s my story.

It’s May, Boris Johnson has just told us all we’re not to leave the house and the nation stays indoors. Like many, I turned to surprising new areas of interests to keep me sane – for me it was painting portraits of famous people.

I’ve never picked up a paintbrush for artistic reasons and if I’m honest I’ve never really liked art yet as of August 2020 I have over 80 paintings to my name. So what happened?

We’ll it all started with Grayson Perry’s Art Club – I actually missed the portrait episode but when I saw my wife was watching it I sat and watched with interest.

It was actually seeing Joe Lycett (from my home town of Solihull) painting Chris Whitty that made me think “Oh I’d like to have a go at this, he looks like he’s having fun regardless of the finished product”

My early Acrylic Portrait Paintings
First paintings I loved.

Thankfully for me the start up was cheap as my mother-in-law Rosy had loads of acrylic paints and an easel I could have. So I got painting and although the first few were very rough I posted them to Facebook and people really reacted to them so it encouraged me to keep painting.

It was the Richard Ayoade and Frank N’ Furter (Rocky Horror Show) paintings that made me feel I could actually take this further.

A whole load of my acrylic portrait paintings
My early works

Setting up Portmates

At the time I was posting these paintings to my personal Instagram and Facebook pages which had limited reach as my Facebook is pretty locked down so it was natural to create a new page for my artwork.

I decided to call my brand Portmates, which is a mixture of Portraits and ‘Your mates’ as I was calling my paintings mates at the time. It’s a bit cheesy but it’s stuck.

I did a self portrait which my Facebook page followers LOVED and that became my brand identity and even done versions with 80’s style glasses for other art sets, but more on that later.

My branding based on my self portrait
My self portrait became my brand ID.

Page Growth

I was loving it. For once in my career I was in control. I didn’t have to wait for developers or beg, borrow and steal time from people so I could launch products of my own. I just painted and used my background in product design to release things I could sell.

In the early days I was doing lots of ‘Win a portrait’ competitions and free commissions which really helped get my art in front of new people. I have a whole gallery of people with my paintings. It’s ace! I love seeing them out in the wild. One painting is even hanging in a local hair dressers.

Some of my art sales and commissions
Out in the wild!

Facebook groups

Part of my enjoyment is sharing to various facebook groups. I can’t thank Staceylee at the Portrait Artists UK group for the shares and kind words. It’s been a huge part of my journey and will continue to do so.

Stacey has often shared some of my live painting sessions and even purchased a set of cards from me she has really pushed me forward even if she’s unaware she’s been doing it.

The other group I had early success with was the Grayson Perry Art Cub group, they also fed me some very lovely feedback in the early days.

Me, Mulder and Scully painting
I joined the FBI

Developing my style

One of the things that struck me early on was how many of the established artists in these groups were praising my style and how I’d managed to find my artistic voice really quickly.

This lead me to think about the paintings I’ve done before and how I could expand them, make them feel more like original pieces of art rather than perhaps fairly crude paintings.

A weekend of painting portraits
A weekends work

I had already been using fairly heavy lines in my paintings and once I upgraded some equipment (better paint brushes, moving from paper to canvases) I was able to be more experimental with my paintings. (It’s far easier to make mistakes on Canvas as you can paint over them without destroying the paper)

I’m now adding far more colour and being braver with my art. Because I have a design background I’m leaning into that – I think my art is somewhere between graphic art and portrait art.

More of my portrait art

Selling art

To my surprise I was getting enquires about buying some of my paintings. To this date I’ve sold three paintings (roughly one a month) which as a hobby ain’t bad at all!

I also started creating my own products such as Art Cards and Prints, which If I’m honest haven’t sold very well but I have sold a few… but as it’s still early days I’m happy with having some stock so when I do find new audiences they’ll have something to buy from me.

80's action art collection
My 80’s action Art Cards

I’ve experimented with Shopify, Etsy but settled on having a Big Cartel Store. You can of course buy them here.

I’m going to be focusing on selling originals for the next few months before they take over my office and I have to use them as fuel.

I’ve been approached by an online gallery which is exciting, my work should be available to sell from them very soon.

Oh by the way, if you’re interested in the process of getting products from painting to printed items I can sell I did a tweet thread about how I did it (TL;DR, scan, touch up, print) – Read it here.

My art cards volume one available for sale.
Art Cards Volume 1

Benefits of painting

My skin has always sucked. I scratch myself senseless and it effects every elements of my life. I don’t sleep well and it effects my mental health. Thankfully since I’ve started painting my skin has recovered MASSIVELY.

Although I still have a way to go before my skin is healthy the painting has really helped me destress and focus my efforts on something other than work, fitness or TV.

When I paint there’s nothing else on my mind, just focusing on the art and getting it how I want it to look (which can take a while!)

(Fitness is still really important to me I’m just less obsessed with how I look in a mirror)

The future

The future is really exciting. I’m planning on expanding my collection of portraits, perhaps even aiming to do a self funded exhibition or even at an established gallery.

I plan on releasing more prints in time for Black Friday / Christmas rush. I know there’s a demand for some of the legends, especially Elton and Freddie so I’ll probably get some of those made ready for Christmas.

Some legends

I’m also going to be exploring other mediums, I’ve ordered two blank skateboards which I’m going to be painting some designs on!

But if I’m honest with myself I don’t see art being my full time focus any time soon as I still really love my UI / UX app design work so I’m mainly going to keep enjoying the new creative outlet I’ve found for myself.

I also need to remind myself I’m very new to this and if any good things are on my horizon with my art it will happen in time. ❤️

So TL;DR – I paint now.

Please follow me on all the socials, my Instagram is buzzing at the moment and my Facebook page is a real lovely community of people. Find all my links here.

I’m fairly confident nobody is reading this far down the page but feel free to tweet me with your own lockdown creative stories.

Paintings I did on holiday.
Paintings I did on Holiday

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