My father was a good portrait painter. He trained in the Euston Road style, that was because he went to Camberwell School of Art just after the Second World War when Lawrence Gowing and Victor Passmore were still teaching there. My father taught me the old tricks of the trade, red ochre undercoat, measurement from the perpendicular, dark to light background set off against light to dark light on the face, and so on. Once you learn these rules the fun comes in breaking them, like all sports painting portraits is really about cheating with flair. There is no such thing as a perfect likeness and that includes Holbein's and Ingre's drawn portraits. Every time you look at a portrait the first thing to say to yourself is 'this is not a face'.
I painted and paint the people closest to me as an ongoing test. I go back to painting myself and those in my family as a sort of yardstick for Emapthy. If, as Camus always insisted, Mersault's story in l’Étranger is 'that of a man put to death because he could not cry at his mother's funeral', then maybe all artists should be put to death if they cannot paint their own parents with feeling. Whistler and Rembrandt were, in terms of temperament and technique, chalk and cheese. Both men painted their mothers with love and made them immortal.