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I've taken up portrait painting

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Evans Vettori director Robert Evans on inheriting his father’s passion for painting

Back in 1990 I moved to Italy with my young family. To start with I couldn’t find work as an architect, so I eked out a precarious living painting watercolours. At the same time I started sketching the people we met, as a means of socialising while I was still learning to speak Italian. It’s surprising how much most people enjoy being drawn, and it’s always a talking point at the dinner table.

I was brought up in an artistic household with plenty of pencils and paper, and have always enjoyed drawing. In fact this was the basis on which I was allowed to study architecture. It’s rather an old-fashioned view, but I still believe drawing is an essential skill for architects. As computers have taken over, I have found the ability to draw quick three-dimensional sketches for clients and builders is like waving a magic wand. Keeping one’s hand in with regular practice also improves speed and fluidity.

My father was a landscape artist. He died last year, with an unfinished painting still on his easel. I inherited some of his artists’ materials, which provided an impetus to start taking art more seriously. So this year I decided to dedicate some time to it. Friday is now portrait-painting day. Sitters pose in the morning for about three hours, and then further studio work is done in the afternoon. I also enrolled in evening classes for portraiture and life drawing. This has been useful for loosening up after decades of drawing orthogonal buildings.

Initially I concentrated on pencil and charcoal work, before venturing into paint. Painting is a very different discipline, and I often wish that my father was still around to offer advice. I’m conscious of being a beginner in this field, so intend to try and develop a freer, more ‘narrative’ style next. By happy coincidence, 25 years after doing my first portraits in Italy, I received my first commission there this summer.

Robert Evans is a drector at Evans Vettori Architects, Derbyshire. His art features on Instagram @instaportraiture


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