He was going to immortalise me on canvas. But I’m 3D and I’ve only got an hour

I sat and imagined what it must have been like for the Mona Lisa
  • @timkeyperson

I met a man a few months ago who was a painter. He was old-school and flamboyant, with a couple of feet of white hair exploding up from an angular, artistic face. He waggled his brush and said, “I would love for you to sit for me” again and again until eventually I succumbed and we put a date in the diary. The next thing I knew the date had come and I made myself look as fit as hell and I drove to Wales and I rang his bell and he whisked me up into his studio and plonked me on a stool and I was now “sitting”.

I perched and observed this colourful bird as he pointed a stick at me from his painting zone and worked out how he was going to immortalise me on his canvas. I’m always suspicious of these people. What he’s attempting seems unlikely. He’s just a man. He has paint in tubes and brushes and saucers. And he’s trying to immortalise me. Surely that’s going to be a problem. I am complicated, I am 3D and I’ve only got an hour. Still, good luck to him. He squeezed his tubes and narrowed his eyes.

We discussed the sitting position. I wanted something that looked dignified and timeless. He wanted me to touch my lips with my little finger and pout. We compromised and I ended up gripping my chin with my fist and stretching my other hand towards the artist and giving a thumbs up. Then he put a record on, wiped his hands, dunked his brush and got going. And then Beethoven filled the room, the painting fumes pacified me, and I sat.

I sat and I sat and I sat. Perfectly still. The last thing I wanted was to come out blurry, so I didn’t move a muscle. When I needed to breathe I just did it very quietly, in my head. Give the guy a chance. Motionless, I meditated before this wizard’s bristles. Presently, I became aware that he was using lots of blues. This perplexed me and I fought not to furrow the brow. I’m not blue. I don’t want future generations to assume I was blue. I tried to convey my dismay to him without speaking or altering my facial expression. But he kept using blue. And I sat still like a prune and let him.

And as I sat I willed this hurricane of hair and sleeves to be kind to me. To be kind to my jowls. To make my hands look impressive. To give me thick hair and iconic eyes. To make me hunky. I lost concentration and my hand drifted away from my chin for a second. I imagined what it must have been like for the Mona Lisa, sat plum-like in front of that steaming perv for days on end. Her looking beautiful, intriguing. Him barking for her to follow him round the room with her eyes. Fortunately my man was stationary, so I just offered up a dead-eyed stare and worried about the blue.

Even an hour sat on a stool can be an ordeal. I made some minuscule adjustments to get comfortable. I leaned forward a fraction and rocked softly to centre my heart. Then, eyes open, expression fixed, I slept, the paint fumes sending me away into blue, monochrome dreams.

“Fin-ished!” I was awoken by a triumphant squawk and an arm round my shoulder and the artist walking me to his work. I was on edge. Petrified at what he had seen in me. But I needn’t have worried.

I marvelled at the gentleman’s masterpiece. It was extraordinary, and very flattering. I thanked him and I popped my clothes back on and asked him why he had chosen to use blue rather than flesh-colour in the grand tradition. He explained he’d run out of pink and apologised and thanked me for sitting. I photographed his efforts and shook his hands. And, satisfied that I now existed on canvas, I drove back to England.