If anyone had said to me when I started the painting degree programme that I would become reasonable at painting human portraits (I was always happier with animal portraits), I would not have believed it. I would certainly never have believed that the local council would agree to hang a piece of my work in the local Sports Centre. The Sports Centre was being renamed in honour of Rose Reilly MBE. This happened a few years ago (2020) and it has relevance to the hons part of the degree programme for me to Sustain My Practice as an artist and I am keen to share this story in the hope that it also inspires others to see where they can make a difference in their communities.
Rose is a local celebrity being a pioneer of ladies football to the level that she played for both Scotland and then Italy at international level and professionally at club level in Italy. Rose pursued her dream of playing football in the face of adversity from her family, society, and even her country. This resonated with me as I am now following my dream of developing my artistic abilities as I regretted not studying art when I was younger after a secondary school art teacher shattered my confidence. I encouraged our son to follow his passion for acting and drama in order that he didn't live with regret, and his first Hollywood film is due for release this year. It was watching my son flourish as he went to Theatre School in his spare time that made me commit to pursuing my art degree, so here I am seven years after enrolling, waiting on the results of my BA in Painting and currently starting on the hons part of the course.
Anyway I have been developing an interest in portraiture which I would never have believed as my initial attempts were terrible but gradually I have been improving, and when I read a local news article about the re-naming of our Sports Centre in honour of Rose, and a television documentary was made about her by BBC Alba (see link below), her story of facing adversity and pursuing your dream made me want to do a portrait of her which I wanted to donate to the town, preferably for display in the Sports Centre. Next time I met her down the street shopping, I mentioned my idea and asked for her approval and gave her my Facebook page details to see my work (she didn't know I could paint and draw despite knowing me for years). After seeing my work she said yes go ahead, but if I gave her any grey hairs or lines around her eyes we'd have a falling out!!
I wanted to show a portrait of her as she is today, looking back at her sporting career. Anyway, I completed my portrait - getting in touch with the producer of the documentary to get permission to use a still image from the documentary as my source reference alongside one of Rose's iconic images holding a trophy aloft being carried on fans shoulders. I then got in touch with the relevant local council department and set up a meeting with them to discuss my proposal. They were all set to say thanks but no thanks until they actually saw the finished painting (which Rose approved of at a private unveiling at our house. I wasn’t sure of Rose’s eye colour and wanted to make sure she was happy with the portrait. Rose asked me to alter the mouth a little, and after a few tweaks she was happy with the result). The council then said yes as long as the framing incorporated their colour scheme for the leisure centre and used one of their approved suppliers to frame the portrait. I did ask if they could stretch their budget to afford the framing as I felt I had done enough with providing the portrait and they agreed.
There was a plan for a big unveiling event, but it was at the end of March 2020 right when lockdown happened. I already had the picture framed and handed in to the Sports Centre to be hung on the wall in reception area.
It was good to paint a subject that I was inspired by and felt motivated to produce, there is a fair amount of box-ticking when dealing with councils and promoting your image can’t be done from behind the easel in the studio, but like I said, I was motivated to produce something that would last for the town in honour of a local celebrity and give me a small claim to fame within my own community.
www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0frxp4c Icons of Scottish Football – Rose Reilly documentary.
Final portrait before framing. Rose Reilly M.B.E. Oil on canvas 20” x 20”
Rose is happy with the alterations – and I got to match her eye colour exactly.
Rose wasn’t happy with the mouth and asked me to alter it.