'Kurt (Tribute to Kurt Cobain)' is part of a series of individual portraits of my heroes, admirations and inspirations. From music and popular culture, these are people that I love and admire: the pretty and the beautiful, alive and dead. My interest lies in capturing the feeling of beauty and of presence in a pared-down style. In essence, I try to replicate the person’s character and the psyche, without all the unnecessary details. For me, this painting was very spontaneous; I was able to build up the layers very quickly to create an instant likeness.  The black background projects the image forward, as do the light yellow tones of his hair.


I began this artwork from my home studio in mid October 2019 , and completed this portrait within a month. Typically, I tend to think about a new project or work on another painting at the same time. My process begins by surrounding myself with visual reference material, including photographs in books or online, Blog articles, Mojo magazines, TV images and newspaper articles.  


For this series, I used a new technique in oil painting, which I learnt online from ‘A master class in Portraiture with Sam Dalby.’  Using a primed canvas, I mixed burnt sienna with white spirit and slapped it on the canvas to make the underpainting, leaving it to dry overnight.  


From this, I mixed a quantity of black oil paint with linseed oil to completely cover the canvas.  After the ‘blackout stage’, I prepared my palette of colours, mixing a range of flesh tones from light to dark, and warm to cool.  To begin painting the subject, I used a tissue or cotton bud to rub and remove the black paint from the canvas to the parts of the face where the light falls.  In doing so, you reveal parts of the underpainting.  I didn’t use any line work at this stage but rather, from my prepared colour palette, I worked from the lightest tones to the dark tones, combined with the black paint on the canvas. I dabbed my colours on and built up my tonal range. One advantage of using this technique is that the oil stays pliable for quite a few days!


This artwork is a tribute to an iconic artist, and the legendary creative force behind Nirvana.  I wanted to immortalize in paint a person who has greatly influenced me as an artist, and the music of a whole nation. He is a genius and one of the most influential rock musicians in the history of alternative music. Without him, we wouldn’t have ‘Grunge’!

Kurt Portrait (Tribute to Kurt Cobain)

  • Oil on canvas

  • 30.5x30.5cm