Double portrait commission: Robert Nisbet and Alexis Mavrikakis
Prior to retraining as a portrait artist, I worked as a print journalist & news pr for BBC & Sky News where I looked after the public image of journalists, such as Sky News’ Robert Nisbet.
I was then delighted when Robert, having seen my portrait of Sky News colleagues Jeremy Thompson and Julie Etchingham, and other broadcast news journalists, asked if I would take a private commission to paint him and his partner Alexis Mavrikakis.
A double portrait that hinted of their history together
He told me about the discrimination they had encountered when in America reporting for Sky News, where to even hold hands in public had been impossible.
A point of reference in a Hockney portrait
The couple had a very clear idea of what they wanted: a portrait with the feel of David Hockney’s Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy where they would occupy the same space but not touch. Thinking of the light streaming in from a glazed door opening onto a balcony which bisects the sitters (perhaps a foreshadowing of their later divorce), I thought it appropriate to portray Robert and Alexis similarly against the light but with enough coming in to illuminate their faces.
No 'traditional' couple pose
They were clear they didn’t want a Victorian pose of one partner standing behind the chair where the other sat, and so settled themselves into a position they felt comfortable in where Robert sat on the chair and Alexis on the floor in front of him.
A portrait from agreed, hi-res photographs
Due to their living in Brussels, where Robert was then posted, I painted the portrait entirely from the photographs I took at that sitting.
Robert Nisbet and partner Alexis Mavrikakis oil on canvas portrait by Stella Tooth.
Alexis Mavrikakis and Robert Nisbet with their portrait.