Internationally known awardwinning artist Evert Ploeg is one of Australia’s most highly regarded portrait artists. A member of the Portrait Society of America for over 15 years, he has also served on the faculty of the annual the Art of the Portrait conferences. In June, he unveiled his painting of University of Melbourne law professor Michael Crommelin. The portrait was commissioned as part of the law school’s 160th anniversary celebration and in recognition of Crommelin’s tenure as the dean. At the unveiling Ploeg said, “It’s always a great honor to paint the portrait of someone so wellrespected and deserving, such as professor Michael Crommelin.”
While thanking the law school, Crommelin also thanked Ploeg, remarking, “I owe an enormous debt to the artist. While I still don’t know how he did it, I am enthralled by the result.”
Ploeg starts each project with a commitment to creating a narrative, finding what is unique and individual about the sitter, and then portraying them in a contemporary and modern light. In their first meeting together, Ploeg discovered that as dean, it was Crommelin’s vision and leadership that contributed to a successful transition to the current law school building, which features large, expansive and impressive glass windows. Later during their meeting, Ploeg remembered him saying, “connections…to be connected with what was happening not only within the walls of the law school but to be universally connected to the outside world.” This became the mantra of Ploeg’s narrative, and from there he was able to develop a composition that was engaging, thought-provoking and echoed Crommelin’s sentiments.
The initial design concepts were prepared with multiple Photoshop layers. This gave the artist an excellent pre-visual as the buildings needed to be reversed in the reflected glass. It also allowed for easy manipulation to achieve the desired illusion. Crommelin visited Ploeg’s studio in Sydney for two live sittings to complete the color rendition directly on the artwork. Ploeg explains, “I had Michael gaze upward and outward, much like the captain of a ship, bringing his crew to the future. Choosing twilight as a time setting created the extra drama and contrast, with the office lights giving the impression of things happening, people working, electrical energy, communicating…a connectivity.” He continues, “I felt challenged to create a painting that conveyed that. It is why I like doing portraits: you get to go into someone’s story, go into their lives… and if my portrait may inspire just one person, then that’s what I think is cool about the whole thing.”
Professor Michael Crommelin, oil on linen, 45 x 54"