capturing peter

From the moment I began to paint, my partner Peter’s likeness has been present in my work. Occasionally I’ve been unconscious of using him, and it was friends who first pointed out he was there in the wrestling angel of The Temptations of Solitude, though burlier in the paintings than in life, and shaved bald. Peter has never subscribed to the theory that the angel is him, but whatever was going on in my head when I was making the paintings, it’s clear it’s him.

hicks-jenkins 012_2

The Comfort of Angels Attending the Dying.

hicks-jenkins 013

The Man Who Lived in a Tree.


He was the model for Bluebeard when I was compiling an early illustration portfolio, painstakingly made as a pointillist drawing with a rapidograph pen. This time I reinvented him as darkly sensualist, a Russian oligarch in furs and silk cravat.

When I illustrated Equus for the Old Stile Press edition of the play (2009) I cast Peter as the psychiatrist Dysart, though for the longest time he had no idea I was using his likeness as I somehow neglected to tell him. It came as a bit of a surprise for  him when he found out, and it has to be said he wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea.

Above: a lost study of Peter made for Equus. I have no idea where it is, which is a shame as I think it rather good. I like the faint image of a ghostly horse looking over his shoulder.

Above: two studies of Peter as Dysart, referencing the psychiatrist’s dream that he’s trapped in a horse’s head, bridled with a bit clamped between his teeth.

Above: the image as it finally appeared in the book.

Many studies of Peter were made using conté pencil against  a red oxide ground. Some of the original drawings were included as ‘extras’ in the special boxed-editions of the book, of which there were ten produced.

Above: Peter on his old National Library of Wales identity card. I didn’t know him when the photograph was taken, though I’ve  conjured something of his appearance at that time for many paintings. Even the pudding-basin haircuts of the following images are based on the fact that his hair was cut in the style when he played King Henry V in a school play.

Saint Kevin

Saint Kevin

Saint Francis (Detail)

Angel Gabriel (Detail)

Quite a lot of mileage out of a single model!

17 thoughts on “capturing peter

  1. I found both this post and the previous one about painting your father really fascinating.
    Apart from the enjoyment of getting to see more of your amazing work, I really identified with putting your loved ones in your work.

    I am often asked if I put myself in my work, and people are particularly fascinated with the idea of portraiture that’s hidden. I mostly never intend to put myself in paintings, but I guess my knowledge of how hands and faces and bodies go is based mostly on my own, so I can’t help it.. and also I’m expressing some feeling, which of course comes from me, if you see what I mean. I certainly have noticed how the hands my father carves are in fact his own hands.

    I have also put folks I’ve loved and known in paintings over the years, often inadvertently to me too. It’s interesting to me that you do it much more intentionally.

    With appreciation as ever for your wonderful inspiring creativity and skill 🙂
    R x

    • Rima, thank you for lovely comments. That’s all most encouraging.

      Like your father, I use the bits of myself that are conveniently to hand in the studio, including my hands and feet.

      You’re right. I don’t think any artist can but help putting him/herself into paintings. The brain just goes its own way in such matters.

      To begin with I’m sure I didn’t notice Peter was infiltrating my work, though now of course I paint him… or aspects of him… quite intentionally. He’s my muse! But surely you have a muse too. I’m know I’d be painting Tom if he was in my sights. He’s very handsome. (-;

  2. The Wakelins all have interesting heads… There’s a certain elegant shield-like shape to the front-on face that’s bold and strong. Did you ever use a bearded Martin for a model?

    Was thinking about you this morning, reading about Henry Vaughan. And of course there’s a Tretower linkage.

    • No, I never used Martin, though in his rather more extreme stages of appearance he would have made quite the ‘desert father’! All that wild hair and untamed beard!

      Vaughan keeps eluding me. The Old Stile Press book came to nothing, and I fear now never will. Worse still, the commemorative stained-glass window is on hold, and the project may not be revived. (There was an objection to the scheme before the design was even submitted.) A shame, as I’ve always loved Vaughan’s poetry.

  3. Peter’s brow line on his identification card is so characteristic. I see it all over your work now. You can’t keep him off the canvas even if you try. His impact on your life and work is as apparent as it is important.

    • It’s interesting that it’s taken three models to bring Saint Kevin to life. Ben Koppel was the model for the earlier boyish version of the saint, such as seen in THIS image, Peter was the model for the more formal images above, and then there was the man glimpsed briefly in the street one day, who inspired THIS. (I wrote about him in a comment box on THIS post.)

  4. A lot of mileage yes, but quite a handsome fellow as has been mentioned above. That sort of handsomeness that lends itself to many incarnations . I have always loved your use of the “pudding bowl ” haircut, I would love to see the image that inspired it. Take care.

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