A Personal Portrait with Duncan Shoosmith
Taking the portrait of an award-winning portrait artist could've been a daunting task, but fortunately the endlessly talented Duncan Shoosmith is a family friend.
If you're not aware of Duncan Shoosmith, or you haven't heard his backstory, allow me to share some details about this accomplished portrait artist. Born in 1968, Duncan grew up in Berkshire, UK. He was a keen designer throughout his childhood, and always knew that he wanted to convert this passion into a career. And so, he enrolled in a graphic design degree course. Post graduation, however, Duncan discovered that the profession did not live up to his creative ambition, and found himself searching for fresh endeavours. By chance, Duncan visited a Lucian Freud Show at The Whitechapel Gallery in 1993, and was instantly inspired by the artist's paintwork. He had found his vocation.
Following Duncan Shoosmith's visit to the Lucian Freud exhibition, he spent many years honing his craft by creating self-portraits of himself, and then his friends and family. Through time Duncan discovered his style, and was soon exhibiting his work to the public, and also selling via private commissions. His dream had been realised, and his work was being appreciated, but soon his career in portrait painting was to reach another higher and, rather unexpected level.
Back in 2018/2019 Duncan Shoosmith was pondering the idea of entering the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year Competition. It was a TV series that he had never taken an interest in before, but after much goading by his godson, found himself drawn to it. Not thinking anything would come of it, he entered. Despite fearing that he would be rejected before the cameras even started rolling, he was selected and joined the talented group of portrait painters. What followed was a fascinating creative journey for Duncan, one that pushed him out of his comfort zones, and actually produced a better painter. His fine oil on canvas work was revered throughout the competition, and the strength and honesty in his portraits was critically acclaimed. And with great pride, Duncan Shoosmith reached the final of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year Competition, and subsequently won. A huge achievement, and he was considered a worthy winner by all involved. The winner of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year Competition was given the chance to paint the portrait of Sir Tom Jones, and to have said painting hung in the National Museum Cardiff. An honour for any painter, and one that Duncan gladly accepted.
During the Sky Arts Competition, Duncan's work was exposed to a much wider audience. An audience who fell not only for his remarkable talent, but also for his charming personality. Following the competition he was inundated with requests for private commissions, and offers of exciting new opportunities. A fitting accomplishment for a portrait painter who I know genuinely deserves every accolade.
As mentioned in my introduction, Duncan Shoosmith is a close family friend of mine, and recently, I was invited to his home studio, near Marlborough, Wiltshire. As an artist, it is important to always hone your craft. But it is also vital that occasionally you do something that is just for you. A project without financial pressure, that reminds you why you love what you do. For Duncan, that is painting the portrait of a certain family friend, a 16-old boy that he has been documenting in oil since he was a baby. And Whenever he has a gap between commissions, Duncan makes time to paint him. The feeling it brings is like being on holiday, free from constraint, and working within the comfort of someone he knows well. As a professional portrait photographer, I am very much the same. And so, when I visited Duncan at his home earlier this year, I decided to take his portrait while he progressed with his latest project.
We shot Duncan Shoosmith's portrait in his studio, as I felt that was the place where he felt his most composed and relaxed. I wanted to capture the spirit of the man I know, and share the warmth that his friends and family always feel when they're in his presence. As a backdrop to the shots I was lucky enough to have the handsome portrait of my nephew hanging behind Duncan. A very sentimental touch for this personal portrait. The light in the studio was ok, but I wanted to make sure that my subject was lit in the most complementary way possible. And so, I set up a single diffused flash-head to the left of the shot, which gave a very interesting feel to the image, and also served to highlight Alby's portrait behind. In particular, I was very pleased with how the tones between Duncan and Alby seemed to work so well together.
It was a wonderful day spent with Duncan, and the creative shot in the arm I need from time to time. Here's to the continued success of my talented friend, and long may his portraits be admired.