Monday, 14 April 2014


Jack Vettriano

Jack Vettriano is Britain's most successful artist - commercially speaking, that is.

He shot to fame with his early painting called The Singing Butler. Since then his paintings command very prices indeed and an entire industry has been built round his work. His prints alone generate an income each year in excess of £500,000.

Self Portrait

Despite his popularity with the public and considerable commercial success, his work has yet to appear in any major British Gallery.

This week the BBC aired a short documentary about Jack Vettriano. 

They filmed him at work in his studio in London's Knightsbridge and on location on a photo shoot elsewhere in London.

Actress/Model Kara Tointon

The project featured in the documentary is preparation for a photo-shoot with actress Kara Tointon. Her 'role' is that of a woman (with an Aston Martin) who is jilted by her lover. This is the subject of Vetrriano's next painting.

Kara is celebrated for her role in EastEnders and for winning Strictly Come Dancing's Glitterball in 2010

Although sometimes accused of using photography in his work - something artists have done since the invention of the camera - this is a method Vettriano is clearly happy to share with his audience

Costumes are selected an Kara experiments with makeup.

Vettriano has always gone for a 'period' look - sometime in the late 1950's usually - and clearly goes to great pains with his models to get that 'look' right

The photo shoot takes place in a garage containing vintage cars.

Vettriano uses a professional photographer to provide a range of poses from which he will eventually chose the one he wants for his painting.

Back at the studio he will start work, first selecting the pose he wants from the photographs. His canvas is surprisingly small but then this is only a study for a larger painting.

 Choosing the best pose

Vettriano has another studio in Nice, France and property in his native Scotland. These may be the trappings of wealth but he appears to lead a relatively modest life in which painting takes precedent.

He starts work at five in the morning, for example. Can many of us claim as much, I wonder?

The finished study looks like this (below). Note the tinted canvas with which he begins.

No sooner has he completed this small picture than - in the documentary - he wipes it with turps before starting again, this time with Kara leaning against the car.

The second, finished study

Although Vettriano is self-taught, he has perfected a technique entirely suitable for his chosen subject matter.

This is genre painting and clearly much admired by his fans. I have always liked this work and find it inexplicable that he has never found acceptance by the art establishment.

The film shows him to be both troubled and somewhat insecure.

He tells how he once went to an exhibition of paintings by Francis Bacon.
 He  was so overwhelmed that he was unable to paint again for two weeks - until he had regained his self-confidence.

Colette Camden's documentary of Jack Vettriano is a sensitive study of a talented, hugely popular artist who, despite wide-spread criticism from the art establishment, has kept faith with his art.

Mike Healey

You can see this BBC documentary by clicking on the link below:


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