Sunday, May 22, 2011

The last day of the Sydney Writers' Festival

I got up early (10am) to draw up some more of our letterhead - we were expecting to do REAMS of portraits on this, our last chance to clean up at the Writers' Festival, where we get paid by the glorious minute (50 cents for me, 50 cents for the boss). Stella says when the Festival is over, we are going back to 'gold coin donation'. I don't ask why, and I dare not ring my union rep.

Jon and Marg

Jon and Marg arrived as we were setting up, saying, "Great, you're here! We saw you yesterday, we've been looking out for you!" - music to any busker's ears, as long as it doesn't then follow with, "We've had some complaints", "We need to see your busking licences", or "So who have you been liaising with from the Official Festival Organisation Board?" etc.


Carolyn and Victoria

Carolyn and Victoria were liberated from their children for the morning, and had an air of excitement - that first taste of freedom! Of course, prolonged freedom can start to have a stale and lonely taste, for many people.


This was the first time Ros (or "plain Ros", as she called herself when I asked for her name) had sat for her portrait. She was game and enthusiastic (all our sitters are game), but I'm afraid she might not have enjoyed the experience that much.

Amanda May Russell

Photo by Sally McInerney


I started speculating to myself about Robert's character (something I actually don't do that often when portrait-painting - I'm too busy mixing words together), and I think this made him feel a bit scrutinised. It's highly likely that his "wary" look is not habitual.





Linden had a great face. When she sat down, she was wearing a cap and large sunglasses, which I asked her to take off. She did somewhat reluctantly. I can only think that her reluctance was something to do with not looking as she had twenty years ago. Or maybe she was just shy.
Photo by Sally McInerney


One thing I've noticed is that as people get older, their features settle firmly into place. Maybe when our faces are young, our features slide and bounce around on our plump-mattress faces. That might seem an ugly way of expressing it. But whenever a face is described, without such adjectives as "pretty" or "handsome", it often ends up sounding exaggerated, and bordering on ugly. So far, all our customers have been very forgiving and good-humoured, but I do hope they are not haunted ever after by a clumsy or thoughtless phrase of mine. Once someone told me I had a weak chin.

Carol Nelson

Photo by Sally McInerney


I squandered a bit of time, while describing this lovely, interesting face, in expounding upon my differently-positioned-eyes theory.


Jenny Towndrow

Author Jenny Towndrow paid double the price for double the time ($10 for 10 minutes). It was nice to be able to stretch out and do a bit of elaboration. She said her portrait is going to go into her biography.


Vinod was very helpful - we workshopped his face before I started writing. His mother had told him that he must never get a portrait done of himself because his features are large and it would look like a caricature. But we humans like large features!
Photo by Stella


Galea and I went to art school together. The only time we've had an almost-fight was when we did mean caricatures of each other in a Computer Class. I think this regretful episode was more about the boringness of the Computer Class, than about any animosity between us. I absolutely love Galea's face, it lives in my heart.


Danny and Teya

Paul S.

A colleague of Paul's passed by and asked if he could read Paul's portrait. He ran his eyes over the page, nodded and said, "She's got you right: shifty." I had to do a fair bit of damage control after this. My mother suggested the word "alert", and Paul said not only did he sound shifty, but also exhaustingly intense. Several hours later, with Paul was still sporadically quoting, or misquoting, from his portrait ("'Hooded eyes'", "'Darting this way and that'"), I finally said, "You're more used to looking than being looked at. So you haven't learnt to disguise what your eyes are doing, and what is catching your interest." This seemed partially to soothe him.

Oh, and the word at the end should be "WIFE'S". My typo lends the observation an unintentionally lewd air.



Martha was waiting for her parents to come out of a session. As you can see, our customer-count for the day had wildly exceeded my expectations, and I had run out of letterhead.
Photo by Sally McInerney



There was another customer after Davor, but I had only one sheet of paper left, so gave him the manuscript and didn't take a carbon copy.