As a surprise for my husband’s recent big birthday I secretly commissioned a mutual friend, artist Christa Hook, to paint my portrait. To put into context what a big deal this felt to me, let me explain that we don’t have any pictures of ourselves up at home - so it was going to be either a ‘gosh, how lovely’ moment or a ‘what have you DONE?’ moment when he unwrapped the present…..*
Christa took part in our local open studio event in the village over the summer, and was kept busy doing on-the-spot watercolour portraits. Across both weekends the little voice in my head saying ‘Jim’s birthday, Jim’s birthday…..’ kept making itself heard. Here’s what set it off in the first place:
I wanted Christa to paint me at work, so we found a date when the birthday boy wasn’t going to be around (he works just next door), and she pitched up at the Let Fire Inspire workshop with her gear. I was absolutely beside myself with nervousness about it when she arrived (‘what am I DOING?’, ‘this feels really weird’ and ‘I feel I must be really vain, doing this’ were some of the things I gabbled in welcome) but we had a cup of coffee and a chat while Christa set up her easel and filled her water pots.
It was an absolutely enthralling morning, and an incredible experience. We had identified that the best part of the beadmaking process for Christa to show was the winding of the glass, and I picked my favourite transparent green for the purpose. I sat and wound bead after bead at the torch flame, and put all other thoughts aside.
I was at work. Christa was at work. And we were both doing what we loved. Rather nice, I thought.
I made beads and Christa painted for about three quarters of an hour. She told me that she was done, and wanted to show me the painting. I stalled her for at least five minutes on this one, finding every excuse in the book NOT to have a look. I think I was terrified!
But then I looked. And burst into tears. I was absolutely blown away that she’d captured me - in paint, absolutely 100% - being me at the torch flame, letting fire inspire. She gave me a hug.
*The verdict from the birthday boy? ‘Awwww Rebecca.’ #smileyface
Renowned artist and illustrator Christa Hook has created military artwork, book illustrations, portraits, watercolours and natural history paintings. Weekly life-drawing ‘since forever’ gives her confidence and expertise in drawing with paint for her watercolour portraits, and she tells me that she was never not going to be an artist. It certainly comes across both in her work and in her approach to it - this girl has paint coursing through her veins.
@christahookwatercolourartist on Instagram
@HookChrista on Twitter