Today the painting was accompanied by the delightful sound of Peter’s grandson singing to himself in the next room. The evening sunlight was shining dully in through the skylight, directly over the easel. Peter said, “Is it me, or is it darker today?” I reminded him that he had complained of the same thing last week and that it didn’t at all seem that dark.
I feared I was in danger of being able to discern the details of the green newspaper cutting before the portrait was finished, but it did merge from the woman sitting in the armchair into a sort of golem creature hunched in the darkness, and then suddenly the golem was sitting with his head in the lap of the lady in the armchair. I was relieved that this image has not yet fixed itself after 3 hours of staring.
Peter had read what I’d written about the first day’s session and joked about his huffing and puffing as if it would ‘blow the house down’. He also said that he always found it strange that people were surprised about how much paint he uses, he didn’t think he was using an unusual amount. I said that no one who had seen one of his finished paintings could be surprised to see how much paint he uses. His canvases look so thick with paint and colour.
The mutterings of ‘No, no, no’ increased until Peter declared to himself “No, that’s no good. No good at all.” He began scraping handfuls of paint back off the canvas with a palette knife. This paint was scooped into a sheet of newspaper and added to the small mound of painty newsprint that builds up during the session from Peter wiping clean his brushes between colours. He set straight back to work and we carried on a few minutes longer after the alarm signalled the hour was up, to get back to something he was happier with.
Despite trying my best to stay still, Peter was looking closely enough to see every tilt of my head and try to compensate for it. He explained that he had been trying to move my head over to the right of the canvas and trying to make my head smaller, but he complained that “it keeps getting bigger. I’ve made you look like your Grandmother. I should go back to shoe design.”
I apologised for not sitting still enough, but Peter assured me that these struggles were the reason he continued to paint from life. It’s the drama and fun of the process that keeps him entertained.