Thinle is the subject and star of my most recent commissioned portrait. Thinle was Nepalese, and lived in the Himalayas. He worked as a mountain guide, and tragically lost his life in a mountaineering accident.
The client who commissioned this portrait knew Thinle from an expedition that he was on, and had taken numerous photographs of Thinle when they were spending time together. This meant that when planning the portrait I had a number of reference images to work from. This gave me a far better understanding of Thinle’s expressions, bone structure, and to some extent his personality than I could have gleaned from one image alone. There is an intimacy that comes from the subject and photographer having a relationship, and that in turn brings me a sense of closeness when I am getting to know them on my drawing board in my own small way.
This is a pastel portrait, drawn soley with pastel pencils on Pastelmat. The background is the colour of the page, and keeping this clear of smudges took a lot of very careful work and attention to how I was moving around the page. The client and I worked closely together carefully selecting the best image, deciding on the composition and how to crop the portrait, whether it should be in pastel or coloured pencil, and what to include and what to omit.
The client has commissioned a portrait from me twice before, so this relationship helped us both trust that we understood where each were coming from, and we knew that we collaborate well. Some clients prefer to be more hands off with the process, and others are more involved at each stage of the portraits development. To be honest I prefer the latter, as when there is an open line of communication throughout, there is less chance of the finished artwork not being what they expected or envisioned.
Thinle was enormously challenging for me as an artist for many reasons. Beards are something I have not had a lot of experience drawing, Thinle’s bone structure is quite different to that of the majority of people I have drawn, wispy hairs are always hard to draw sufficiently delicately and natural looking, and the both the colours and the complexities of the knitted hat and the cords tied around it were something I at times doubted I could achieve as I hoped to. I had suggested pastel as the medium as I knew it would suit Thinle very well, but it is particularly tricky to get very fine lines with as it is soft and blunts so quickly. This all said, these reasons this portrait was difficult to draw are also the reasons it was so rewarding. I always say that each of my artworks teach me something, and the challenges we face are equal to the sense of achievement we experience when we conquer them.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to create this portrait in memory of a remarkable man. And I am humbled to know that the original will hang in Cornwall, and a print of the portrait is being taken by a friend of the client to be gifted to Thinle’s family in Nepal. What a beautiful thing to have my art travel all that way, and to help him be remembered by those who knew and loved him most in the world.