Liberty Rowley, Marketing Manager at Mall Galleries, recently agreed to sit for Peter Clossick NEAC after bumping in to him at a book launch in the South London Gallery.

In this first post in an ongoing series, Liberty describes visiting Peter's studio for the first time and his method starting a new portrait. 


I arrived at his house after work on Monday as agreed. We started by having a chocolate biscuit in the kitchen and discussing The Octonauts with his 4 year old grandchild.

We then went into the Studio, an extension on the side of a Victorian house, past Peter’s motorbike covered from the rain. Inside, along one wall are random newspaper sheets taped up to protect it from paint splashes. Along the other are some of his works on the floor, wet and in progress, with taped up sketchbook drawings above. Next to his easel, where they can be viewed while he is working, colour wheels and colour experiments are pinned over the newspapered wall.

In front of the easel is a table top palette, with a porridge bowl sized portion each of Red, Yellow, Blue and White paint heaped on the surface.

Peter has already arranged a chair and a choice of cushions for me. Radio 3 is broadcasting a documentary about Scott Joplin. Peter decided not to use artificial light as it will stay lighter for longer over the coming weeks, while he is working on the painting, so better to start off in the dusk on the first day knowing it will be light enough to paint at that same time next week.

I fixed my eyes on a green image clipped from a newspaper and pinned to the wall. Without my glasses on, and in the diminishing daylight, I could not quite tell what the image was. Over the course of the hour I sat motionless, the image shifted from looking like a woman sitting in an armchair to a deep dark jungle scene. I resolved not to look more closely until the painting is finished, as I will be looking at the image for several more hours, I thought it best it remain elusive and mysterious.

Peter worked with two brushes; both quite wide and long. Every few strokes he would wipe the paint from them with a fresh sheet of newspaper. The sound of crumpling newsprint soon mixed with that of Peter huffing to himself which as time passed grew louder and began to include the occasional sucking in of air over his teeth, in the style of a cowboy builder quoting on a difficult job, and sometimes he would mutter “no, no, no”. Eventually I timidly asked “Are you okay? You are making disgruntled noises” to which Peter answered, “Oh yes, I make lots of noises. I’m just wrestling with myself.” He explained that the difficulty of translating a 3 dimensional object (me) on to a 2 dimensional canvas, while I was moving, while he was moving ‘while the world was moving’, was what kept him painting.

I found I shouldn’t let my mind wander too much, as this made it difficult to maintain the pose, I remembered Quentin Crisp describing the intense concentration needed to be a good life model in his book The Naked Civil Servant and decided not only to re-read this book, but also to focus on the shifting green newspaper cutting on the wall and stay as still as possible.

Peter seemed relieved when the alarm sounded to let him know he had painted for the hour we had agreed on, but still seemed keen for me to come back the same time next week.

by Liberty Rowley, Mall Galleries Marketing Manager