The Daily Telegraph

‘Within seconds, I was at ease’



My portrait was commission­ed by the Welsh Rugby Union, and was actually the first official portrait to be commission­ed in Wales, which added an extra bit of responsibi­lity.

Painting Queen Elizabeth was always something I had considered to be the ultimate portrait commission, because it wrestles with all of the problems of public persona – how the public see the figure, and how you’re going to represent that. I had great respect for her as a figure, and a lady, rather than just an institutio­n, and I wanted to explore that by getting behind that public image to achieve something more personal. She had enormous responsibi­lity, and it must have been quite a lonely role – because nobody else did it. In a way, she had to write her own job descriptio­n.

The sitting took place in a single day in the White Room at Windsor Castle. When I arrived at the security gate, I realised I’d forgotten to pack my passport, and the guard wasn’t going to let me in. I told him I was there to paint Queen Elizabeth and he just laughed, and I thought I’d already messed it up.

Once I got to the White Room, it was much more plain sailing – I prepared everything from the positions to the lighting and then the late Queen came in with her secretary. Within seconds, I was at ease, because she’s very talkative and it just became a conversati­on.

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