June Mendoza is the most distinguished and longest standing woman-member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. I was thrilled she found the time to meet me considering the demand on her time from many dignitaries (including the Queen who sat for June for five various portraits to date).
One of the most in-demand portrait painter of our time, June is also a mother of four children. Even though in the early days of caring for them she spent in the Philippines with help available to her – return to Englad brought no such perks. When the times got really tough, June came across an invaluable piece of advice – to keep sane under the pressure of responsibiliti
This work discipline proved really useful when applied to commissioned portraiture. Painting from life alone and being granted a limited number of sittings required makes scrapping the picture impossible. In situations like this he artist is committed to making it work. So how does June makeit work ? Well, there does not seem to be any particular system to it. It’s mostly about seeing - the individual design and the way how the shapes and colours relate to each other, but there is a lot more to it.
In her words, there are many elements of the unknown. And the hardest work is the balancing act of those unknowns. It’s like a math problem in which the lines, colour, tones, the design, relationships between shapes are the xyzs of the equasion. If one element changes – the rest have to respond. The secret is in making the right decisions at every stroke – which happens unconsciously and makes up for your individual input of the artist. As a result, in her artwork June manages to capture a fleeting moment – an expression on a face, the gesture of a hand - appearing totally effortlessly.
In spite of great demand for her time, a good chunk of her work is self-initiated. So how does she get on with asking for people’s time? Well, it’s just a matter of asking. When you see June quietly brimming with confidence when she states this, you realize what a role-model she is for the rest of the girl painters out there. It turns out, of course, lots of people are very happy to sit for you. Those you’ve asked would invest into the picture just as much as you would and become interested in giving the time necessary to make the painting work.
Finally, the most important point that came across in several other painters’ interviews and that June stressed greatly is integrity – staying true to one’s own nature in one’s work. Putting the honest work and sorting out the unknowns is the best one can do.
Only the test of time will prove the rest… So I should better get back to painting here.