Ossie Young and commissioned drawing
Ossie Young and commissioned drawing by Stella Tooth
I met Ossie’s mother at a gig at the Half Moon Putney, where I was taking photos of the act in preparation for a portrait of them. I have to take photos, rather than sketch from life, because the venue is too dark to see what I’m drawing, and fans like to stand at the front, so I only have a short time to get the materials I need. On this occasion I was sitting down next to Ossie’s mum cabaret style and we got chatting and it came up that I was Resident Artist. Turns out, she had been admiring my work in the pub, and suggested a portrait of her adopted son, who was born in Guatemala.
So she, her husband and Ossie came along to my home studio in Ealing and we discussed what they were looking for - a mixed media, predominantly drawn portrait in a similar style to my Half Moon Putney works. Ossie’s father brought a beautiful book showing places exterior shots of buildings in Guatemala, many turquoise (one of my favourite colours). Many featured peeling paint, which we all liked. I had asked Ossie to bring along some changes of clothes that he felt comfortable in - and that he would be comfortable seeing himself in on a wall for years to come. He decided that a white shirt would be his choice. And so I took photos of him next to the patio doors in our sitting room, which has a soft southern light and we all sat down to choose which I would work from.
After laying in the background with acrylic paint, delivered with something that looks like a felt tip pen (in the Liquitex system) I then drew in the features of his face in coloured pencil, leaving areas of his shirt to be composed of the white paper support.
The family were thrilled with the result and I was happy to have fulfilled their wishes to portray their son as a young adult spanning two worlds - where the background was a reminder of the place of his birth, and he a reminder of the happy life he had found in the UK with his adopted family.