SEVENTEEN

After painting a series celebrating the beauty of older women, I realised that, right under my nose, I had a teenage girl, bursting with the beauty of youth. It is a more obvious beauty; the child turning into woman.

My seventeen year old said to me that everyone’s going to hate their portrait, just as all her friends hate most photographs of themselves.

But I felt compelled to paint them anyway. I wanted to capture all of these girls at seventeen, a time of gorgeousness that is so obvious to everyone except the girls, who just don’t seem to realise it. It was a conscious decision to choose the daughters of my friends instead of my daughter’s friends.

At this age, girls haven’t yet grown fully into confidence. It is hidden beneath so many layers of insecurities and self-concern, but the beauty shines through still. Perhaps this is even part of it: I want them to see it, and feel good about themselves.

My seventeen year old said that from the way they are painted, the girls are exposed, with nothing to hide behind; there is nothing to distract anyone from looking straight at them, forming an opinion. She told me she found this very hard to deal with, not wanting to be the focus or centre of attention

One cannot help looking.

We both agreed - Seventeen: the beginning of a feeling that everything’s about to change.