UCL News


Sitting comfortably?

19 February 2006

The National Portrait Gallery has been commissioning works for its collection for 25 years, and its latest exhibition assembles the results.

We asked six subjects what it's like to be chosen as a national icon and whether they liked their pictures.

Sir Paul Smith, fashion designer - Portrait by James Lloyd, 1998

James Lloyd [UCL Slade School of Fine Art 1996] was the first person on the Paul Smith art scholarship at the Slade School. I never found out if the National Portrait Gallery knew there was a connection between us, but immediately there was an absolutely delightful association for me.

His studio was a little tiny room at the top of a building in Borough. I sat opposite the window looking out at the railway track and every now and then the trains would stop before going into London Bridge; all these people would look at me and pull funny faces. I had to try hard to sit still and not giggle.

I probably contributed or was a bit of a bully in terms of how I sat, because I am so used to being quite animated in front of a camera. I turned a chair round and sat on it like Christine Keeler in that famous photograph.

But it was quite a thing, having the back of a big canvas in front of me, and James's head popping out every now and again, with his lovely facial movements and his eyes darting around me. He didn't talk to me at all. I asked him if we could have music, which I know a lot of artists absolutely hate, but we put the Jam or the Clash on.

I'm a very down-to-earth bloke and it's the sort of painting that just says, here's a man. Euan Uglow [UCL Fellow 1983], an artist who is sadly dead now, was one of James's teachers and a dear friend of mine. He never gave out many compliments, but when we took him to the unveiling, he said: "Captures your spirit," and I think that was an absolutely poignant, perfect little sentence.

There is a twinkle in my eye, a cheekiness in my face, and indeed I am bit cheeky. He managed to capture that and my extremely shiny shoes; it was probably the only time I had ever cleaned them.

Sarah Philips, 'The Observer'
, 19 February 2006