An Interview with Pencil Portrait Artist Keith Boldy
Keith Boldy’s Pencil Portrait artwork is excellent. From celebrities and actors such as Cheryl Cole and Nathan Fillion to historical figures, such as Queen Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, Keith captures not only the features of his subject but also the character. He also draws family members and animal portraits. Working with carbon pencils and charcoal and coloured pencils too, his artwork is refined and charming. Keith was born in Scotland, emigrated to South Africa with his parents as a child. He returned to England in his teens. He currently resides in Dudley in the West Midlands, England…
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At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
I got into being an artist by accident, on a cruise to Panama in 2009 I ran out of books and picked up a pencil and started drawing one of the passengers opposite me, it was rubbish but I enjoyed doing it and thought with a bit of study and practice I could do better. I looked at other artists work and learned from looking at their images, in particular, an artist called Bill Vuksanovitch whose work is amazing. I’ve slowly improved self-teaching all the time.
Why have you chosen Pencil to be your preferred medium?
Pencil is my chosen medium because I can work wherever I choose without too much fuss and preparation. One day I want to do the same in oils it will mean starting from scratch again but hopefully, it will be worth it. But I’m too busy with my pencil work to even try it.
Queen Elizabeth II – Keith received a lovely letter from her Majesty thanking him. Sadly she was unable to accept gifts officially
How do you choose your subjects to draw?
My subjects are chosen from celebrities when I’m not doing commissions, it has to be someone who impresses me and I feel there is character in the face. By drawing celebrities, I’m choosing people the public know and they can see and judge for themselves if I’ve got it right or not.
Keith’s son Stuart
If you can say, what interesting figures have you met ? What were they like they to draw?
Danny John-Jules star of Death in Paradise has been my biggest supporter I was invited to meet him where I have him his portrait and I spent most of a day with him, a great personality. David Suchet got in touch with me when I did his portrait as Poirot and he said it was the best Poirot he had seen. I was over the moon with that. I did a portrait of James Garner the American movie star after he died. His daughter saw it and loved it. She wrote to me from Los Angeles and we are still in touch today. All my work is from photos and it’s very difficult working from photos from the internet because when you expand the for details they pixelate so I prefer to take my own photos but that’s only possible if my subject lives locally.
Danny John-Jules star of Death in Paradise & Red Dwarf
Who inspires your work? Whose work do you like?
My work is inspired by the artists I’ve tried to learn from Classical artists Holbein, Vermeer Bartoli and Velázquez. And contemporary artists Yugoslavian-born Bill Vuksanovitch Australian artist Yong Su and photographer Yousef Karsh whose understanding of the use of shadows is second to none.
Poirot – played by David Suchet
Can you describe your creative process, from start to finish?
My creative process is really quite simple I work with 180grms Bristol flat paper my pencils which I prefer are Italian Cretacolor Nero carbon pencils 1 to 5. I always start from the eyes I like the subject to watch my progress as I go along I always work from light to dark adding shadows as I progress. If I need a strong black for deep shadows or an outline I will use a charcoal stick.
Very often I need to take some of the shading out so will use a putty eraser where I can pick out the pencil where necessary. An A2 portrait will take me about 30 to 40 hours.
PC Kevin Simmons on his police horse Samson
Any future plans for your work?
My future plans are hopefully to do oil painting but realistically I want to work larger with pencil drawing on 5 and 6 foot prepared boards and more horse subjects as I’ve found I really enjoy drawing horses but finding decent horse images to draw is very difficult. I’m looking at my favourite horse portrait artist Bruce Laws work which is phenomenal and I can learn a lot from his paintings.