Whilst in Scotland on Thursday, The Earl and Countess of Strathearn were shown a portrait of Catherine from a local artist, Tom Sutton-Smith; I have been fortunate enough to talk with Glenys Andrews, who presented the portrait to the Royal couple as Mr Sutton-Smith was in Paris, as well as the artist himself.
“The event organisers asked Perthshire Open Studios to curate an art exhibition in Forteviot Village Hall and also wanted us to choose a gift for the couple, and I recalled the portrait that Tom had done earlier of the Countess.’ Glenys Andrews tells me. Mrs Andrews made sure the couple received the portrait at Forteviot Fete on Thursday, a gift from the artist to them through Andrews, who is Chair of Perthshire Open Studios (POS).
In 2012, the official portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge was released by Paul Emsley and it received a mixed response. Local artist Tom Sutton-Smith had created a few portraits for friends in the past, and upon seeing the official portrait, people told full-time artist Mr Sutton-Smith that he could do better: a page was set up on Facebook for artists in the area to showcase their own portraits of Catherine.
“When the official portrait went up, everyone who knows Tom said, ‘You can do better than that.’ So that was the challenge,” Mrs Andrews continues.Glenys telling me how he created a likeness of her husband a few years previous to the Royal couple’s visit, gaining a rapport with the locals for his art.
I also spoke with Tom about his creation of Kate. He tells me: “The painting was done from a picture, and it was difficult to get a picture of Kate not smiling. The photo I used was from just after the release of the official portrait.”
“It’s hard to do it from a picture. You usually sit with the person and get a feel for their character and have lots of pictures to help decide how you will do it.”
His aim was to convey Kate’s “youthful spirit” because “the official portrait was serious, and in all the photos one sees of her she is smiling and laughing. She is kind of sparkly and I was trying to convey that in the eyes and mouth. Those are the hard bits to get right.”
“There seems to be a trend to do super-realistic portraits, and I was trying to opposite to get some freedom into it.”
It was daunting to have his piece given to William and Kate, Sutton-Smith continues: “There’s always that thought: ‘what if they don’t like it? Is it the right thing to do?’ But I was pleased with the outcome and very happy with their reaction. I saw a video of them when they viewed it and they seemed quite animated and looked at it for a while, so I think they’re happy with it too.”
Naturally, the artist, who works from his studio based in his garage at home, was disappointed to not give his portrait, which is an oil on canvas creation, to the Cambridge’s himself. “I had already made plans to be in Paris when we found out The Duke and Duchess would be coming. I was disappointed but my plans had been made months before and there was no way around it.”
The Chair of POS explains that Tom captured soul in his informal painting, and the Royal couple loved it too. “William said “Wow, it’s brilliant! That’s going up in my room.”
“The Countess’s face lit up. She was wowed by it. She reached out her arms to hold it and stared at it.” Glenys Andrews handed the portrait over to the couple, who were clearly smitten with the piece; it is due to be sent to Kensington Palace soon.
The couple’s Scottish titles are Earl and Countess of Strathearn, so those involved in the upcoming Royal visit were eager to make sure it was a piece from Strathearn itself, so a local framer was used to make the piece extra special, using silver leaf. It was created by Owen Macguire of Crieff.
Glenys tells me more about Will and Kate as they toured the fete, speaking with a few local artists. “They were clearly interested and asked very intelligent questions. They have an understanding of art.” Andrews tells me; Catherine studied History of Art at St Andrew’s University. William started the same course, but later switched to Geography.
“William wanted to know more about the age of people we work with; I explained most of us are more mature, but that we are trying to involve young people and schools in Perthshire. They are the members of Open Studios of tomorrow.’
“Kate commented that the light in Strathearn must be an inspiration. I know she does photography and paints too, so I replied that in September we are having our annual open studios event, where the public can visit 220 local artists’ studios and see what they are actually creating.” The event, 6-14th of September, will support the Duchess’s comment about the light, showcasing many paintings and crafts, inspired by the stunning Perthshire landscape.
William and Kate saw another portrait whilst at Forteviot, though in an unusual medium: jelly beans! Kate apologised that they hadn’t brought George along to see the family portrait.
A picture of the Cambridge family made from hundreds of sweets which the Duchess of Cambridge viewed in Forteviot. pic.twitter.com/CxJKYmLLbh
— Mark Stewart (@RegalEyes) May 29, 2014
George may have enjoyed seeing his new kilt – a gift from Kiltmaker, Marion Foster, also a member of Perthshire Open Studios!
What do you think of the portrait? I love it; there is a certain coy look on Kate’s face, it is unusual, but most of all, it’s flattering! Please comment below or contact me on twitter.
Pictures with thanks to Glenys Andrews/Eric McCabe wildscotphotos