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  • Head & shoulders photo

    Paintings: Eddie (detail), Friend or Foe, Honey & Lemon, The Guitarist (detail) & Shells.

  • Eddie detail

    Paintings: Eddie (detail), Friend or Foe, Honey & Lemon, The Guitarist (detail) & Shells.

  • Friend or foe

    Paintings: Eddie (detail), Friend or Foe, Honey & Lemon, The Guitarist (detail) & Shells.

  • Honey & lemon

    Paintings: Eddie (detail), Friend or Foe, Honey & Lemon, The Guitarist (detail) & Shells.

  • The guitarist detail

    Paintings: Eddie (detail), Friend or Foe, Honey & Lemon, The Guitarist (detail) & Shells.

  • Shells

    Paintings: Eddie (detail), Friend or Foe, Honey & Lemon, The Guitarist (detail) & Shells.

Classical Artist Mike Skidmore

18th March 2015

Artist Mike Skidmore specialises in classical portrait painting, portrait commissions and still life. Passionate about art classical artist Mike Skidmore also runs workshops on portraiture and still life painting for all levels, where he teaches traditional oil painting techniques. We caught up with Mike to discuss his career, style and inspiration.

Can you tell us about your background and what drew you to focus on a career as an artist?

When I was young my parents inherited a painting from a distant uncle. It was painted by Abraham Solomon, a well known Victorian artist. The picture was a portrait of a nun looking upwards. She had beautiful skin and eyes that held so much emotion. I was captivated and spent long periods just looking at the picture, mesmerised by it’s elegance.

I had already taken up the pencil and become engrossed in drawing pictures from my imagination of boyish things like space rockets, galleons and pirates. But as my fascination with the nun grew, so did my love of drawing people’s faces, mostly taken from magazines lying about the house.

School quickly became something to endure, as I knew I wanted to be an artist.

I eventually went to art school, which turned out to be a move that shattered my self belief. I wanted to learn technical stuff, mainly around how the Old Masters achieved the depth inherent in many works. Unfortunately this was at a time when realism and classical painting were not the art school thing. It became a war of attrition, and when I left I felt defeated and gave up my ambitions as an artist.

And so the middle of my life became an eclectic mix of experiences and experiments, all in their way, creatively charged. From musician to graphic designer and on to running my own business, the first of which was a complete disaster and the second very successful, as I finally learned how to commercialise my talents.

From there I just had to wait for my mid-life crisis, and a bit of money from selling my business, to put my early artistic disappointments behind me and go back to what I always wanted to be. A full time painter. It wasn’t easy and took me quite a few years to teach myself the techniques that I employ today.

How would you describe your style?

I like to think of myself as a realist and story teller. I love evocative portraits and still life that are about more than an image. Sometimes it’s just an expression and sometimes it’s about context. I work with oils to create alluring shadows with thin transparent glazes, contrasting with more opaque lighter tones to create dimension.

Today I concentrate on portraits to commission and still life, both of which are driven by my fascination with light and narrative.

Is there an artist that has inspired you?

In portraiture I love the journey of Rembrandt’s self portraits, Edward Hopper’s insights into American life, Thomas Eakins honesty and Ewan Uglow’s mastery of shape and colour. The list is pretty endless.

With still life I’m fascinated by Magritte’s imagination, Cezanne’s brush strokes and many of the Old Masters.

Have you a favourite piece?

This would have to be Thomas Eakins’portrait of Susan Macdowell. For still life, I’m in awe of the way Vermeer painted the household objects that appear in his work.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

The first picture I painted in later life that finally convinced me that I might just make it. It was the culmination of the years of trial and error that magically came together in this painting. It is entitled ‘Eddie’, a friend of mine who was such an enigmatic character. (As shown above)

I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate to be able to look forward to every day as I paint in my studio or teach students eager for direction, information and encouragement. But I’m not content and I hope I never will be. I believe that all artists are engaged in journey that never ends and, as I’m lying in my bed awaiting my last breath, I like to think that my very last thought will be ‘just look at the light on the nurse’s face, what a great painting that would make’!

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