Tuesday, 22 June 2021

MP loves his portrait by ex-Spitting Image artist

YOU will almost certainly recognise this man as Henley MP John Howell.

YOU will almost certainly recognise this man as Henley MP John Howell.

But does the portrait depict the man or the politician? The answer is both.

It was painted by artist Mark Draisey from a photograph taken at the MP’s home in the constituency. He is shown relaxing at his piano with shelves of political books behind. He is dressed in mustard trousers, a grey-green jacket and an open-necked white shirt.

Mr Draisey, 54, of Couching Street, Watlington, says Mr Howell was keen when he first approached him with the idea of immortalising the MP in oils.

He says: “When I chatted to him I asked him whether he wanted to be portrayed as John Howell the politician or John Howell the man. He said he wanted a combination of the two.”

The painting took him about a month to complete. “I work entirely from photos that I take myself so I can set it all up and get the best lighting,” says Mr Draisey. “On this occasion it wasn’t so formal, it’s more of a relaxed portrait.”

The painting, which is oil on linen, only needs a coat of varnish before Mr Howell can take delivery but he has already given it his seal of approval.

Mr Draisey says: “He said he liked it and was pleased with it but, being a politician, he’s not going to give too much away!

“He has informed me that he will probably hang it in his office at Westminster, which is very exciting news for me as there is no telling who might see it there.”

Mr Howell says: “I had a portrait done about 15 years ago so it was time for an update.

“I was very surprised to be asked to sit for it but I’m absolutely delighted with the result. Everyone says it is a photographic likeness which is something, I think, to be much admired.

“I get more famous faces through my office in Westminster than I do at my house in the constituency so that seems the obvious place to hang it.

“When the portrait is here we’ll have a party to launch it.”

Mr Draisey has worked as a freelance illustrator, cartoonist and caricaturist for the last 30 years, providing work for clients such as Oxford University Press, Country Life, Punch and The Week, and was also one of the caricaturists for Spitting Image in the Eighties and Nineties.

He says: “From a very early age it was faces I was drawing more than anything else so it’s in the blood as it were.

“It always helps to get a few notable or recognisable figures in your portfolio. We have got the Prime Minister living locally so, fingers crossed, word might spread.”

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