Portrait painting feels more of a collaborative process so for my site I have included some simple insights into these ventures.

As an introduction to my portrait paintings, I have outlined and assembled a few recent works and work is progress.


As an introduction to my paintings, I have outlined the approach to a recent portrait.

In late 2010, I started preliminary work on a formal portrait of Actress Angela Cassidy. I wanted to comment on my sitter’s professional background as well as painting a formal likeness.

In viewing portrait painting, interest often comes from studying the sitter, analysing the portrayed personality and perceiving the artist intensions in representing and arranging the person.

For my website, I have detailed my system of approach for the portrait, title, ‘Angela Cassidy’ finding the character’.


As the title suggests I have tried to capture a moment when the actor draws from within the intricacies of presenting a character through their persona. 

For the painting I used photography as a reference aid and although the sitting was outdoors under natural sunlight, I wanted to manipulate this light and direct it.  One technique of achieving this was to use a large reflector (I.) to deflect the sunlight from the ground upwards simulating the effects of footlights in a theatre stage; this light manipulation also gives the outlining contours of the face a sharp mask-like appearance, which relates to the early history of theatre masks in the acting profession (I.).


For this portrait, I asked Angela to wear a vintage dress, with a stylised floral pattern and in the final portrait; the flowers in the garden backdrop surround her. The dress clads her in a stylised design from nature and this would be a comment on her profession in turn reflecting stylised human nature (II.)

To finish, the floral garden background was painted expressively in a low clarity to give the impression of a stage backdrop using just enough detail to convince but not detracting from the human interest. 

For portrait commission enquires visit my ‘Contact‘ page


Self portrait, 2015- (work in progress), oil on canvas, 710 mm x 865 mm.

This self portrait is currently a work in progress. I rarely paint self portraits and if so they are usually very simple compositions. In contrast for this one I have taken more of a renaissance approach and occupied the work with abundant content. A favourite inclusion is inspired by Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’. The memento mori skull seen in anamorphic perspective in the foreground of Holbein’s masterpiece takes the form of my palette on this painting (note the sketched version below my portrait that details this). I plan to add more examples of anamorphosis to the picture as it nears completion.


M (grounded).  2013. Oil on linen, 830 mm x 600 mm

This portrait uses accelerated perspective heightened further by the lofty vista from the window. In contrast to this scale is the atmosphere of containment in the room. The painting balances on counterpoint. Isolation is balanced with the mobile phone, the rectilinear architecture with the curvilinear Murano glass ornament and swirling Beardsley print on the wall, also the new architecture compressing an old Church.


Darren McGinley 2013. Oil on canvas, 820 mm x 530 mm.

I asked musician and writer Darren McGinley to bring items of importance to him for his first sitting. I wanted to build in my sitters creative profession and typically they include items of the creative day, encompassing, regime, reference and sentimental artefacts. We had a conversation about the large proportion of the day spent editing material in the creative process which helped prompt the inclusion in this portrait of an archaic editor’s pencil. The system of ‘action then refinement’ symbolised by the polarity of red and blue at alternate ends.  

Day triptych

2008 – 2009 oil on canvas


Noon interior, 2008, oil on canvas, 750 x 750 mm

Scottish actress Angela Cassidy was my model for this triptych,“ With Angela’s countenance conveying a neutrality, this non-aligned (or objective) expression, is the edge to cultivate meanings interpreted around the microcosm of the day and its parallel to other increments of time in our life‘s.” Mowbray’s hallmark of subtle material variance comes into action in this series. For example, the first panel, which relishes the height of the day in all its clarity, is precisely painted on an extra fine textured canvas, the evening is on a medium weave and the final panel when night takes over; finer visible resolution subsides, as this panel is spontaneously painted on coarse jute.


Evening, 2008, oil on canvas,  750 x 750 mm



Night, 2009, oil on jute, 750 x 750 mm



Lime wood sculpture in progress, model Angela Cassidy, 500 x 400 x 108 mm

All Images & Content © 2010 Paul Mowbray