Human Landscape – a Portrait Gallery

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Following my portrait-gallery post, last June:

A collection of portrait drawings and paintings done many years ago.  Most of these were commissioned. Some photos of my old favourites, have lost their colour!  To view gallery, click on any image and wait for the carousel to upload.

Further down the page below the gallery, you can follow the artist’s story through the pictures.  Nowadays I do rather less portraiture, as other kinds of creative work engaged my concentration.   Portraiture was for me, a marvellous apprenticeship to humanity – a lifetime in itself.



The first few portraits date from the 1970s …

1 Dave King portrait '73

Dave King, architect, Liverpool University.  His wife Sue was my neighbour and best friend – we laughed and cried so much together.  She died some years ago.


2 Self portrait, 1973

A self portrait from the early 1970s.  I had a large bedsitting room in Greencroft Gardens, where I danced and painted, pained and partied.  In the background is the drawing below …


3 Helen Ede in Edinburgh

… My grandmother, Helen Ede in 1974, at her final home in Jordan Lane, Edinburgh, with a view of the Pentland Hills through the tall window.   She rests in the middle of a sock for “Old Bonesie” (my grandfather).  She might be listening to Bach, or thinking of Hamlet and the open seas, or worrying lest there’s an earthquake at Reading.


Sketch of Helen Ede

Another sketch of Helen Schlapp Ede …   she was archetypally beautiful, sour, sweet and fragrant.  All through her long life, male concert pianists fell in love with her.


5 Beethoven plays

and an early study of Beethoven, bent over the battered keys as he tries to hear.


6 Jim Ede in Edinburgh

This is Jim Ede my grandfather, in Jordan Lane.  In old age he exchanged his sartorial cottons for warmth, and sported quilted jackets, to my grandmother’s disgust – till she began to wear them too.


7 Heidi in Autumn

Heidi in Autumn, painted in 1973, when she was only fourteen – a very old soul, and turning on.  To her right is a painting of my brother Simon, listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.


Harcourt Curacao

Harcourt Curacao, a gent about town – circa 1982


8 Chris Norman

An old farmer – Chris Norman, my father’s boss:  the chief manager of a group of Somerset farms owned by Showerings the babycham people.   His wife Hilary commissioned the portrait. The colour has faded from the old photograph.  He was tetchy and cross about having himself painted, but  I settled him in his den with the racing form and cigar, and the portrait was a success.  A farming or domestic matter alerts him – a trick to capture life.   As soon as the “connection” happened, I worked at tremendous speed.

There is a story about Karsh’s bulldog photo of Winston Churchill.  Carefully constructing the pose, lighting and psychological tension of the “smoking gun”, Karsh then reached forward, removed the great man’s cigar from his lips, and pressed the shutter.

In those days, I worked entirely from life.  This portrait of Chris took perhaps a long afternoon, leaving me exhausted and exhilerated.


9 Teresa Keinan, Israeli Embassy

Teresa Keinan, at the Israeli Embassy – a very strong woman.  She found a spiritual satisfaction and serenity in doing the ironing and keeping a kosher house.  She said it relaxed and disciplined her taut, enquiring mind, and reminded her not to take life for granted.


10 Joseph Yankson

Mr Joseph Yankson in West Hampstead – from Ghana.  The regal attire and the lion, were a happy touch.   A painting, a great mountain to climb – a conversation needing no words – a humanity.


11 Mary Craig

Miss Mary Craig, headmistress of Bishop Fox’s School in Taunton, where I did my A Levels.  Years later I was commissioned to paint her on her retirement.  It was a privilege to spend some “adult time” with this woman of character, care and understanding, and to smile over old memories while she smoked.  I was a heavy smoker also.

The characteristic chaos behind her was set up by my sister, who collected “Miss Craig” objects from around our mother’s house in Somerset, and strewed them along the chest of drawers, to let them tell their story.  On the wall is an old map of Somerset.   The research for a portrait’s background is like a wander through google, or the antiques road show, the glee in whatever turns up.   We are each a “surface of the brain and heart” upon a vast hinterland.

Mary Craig at Wade Deacon School, circa 1952

Mary Craig at Wade Deacon School, circa 1952

This photo was supplied 13 February 2013 by Drey Cole, another old pupil.   To see our correspondence/Comments, click on the painting of her, to open.


12 John Harley

John Harley at seventeen, listening to the Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd).  He is now a gifted art teacher, Unitarian minister and youth worker.

I had great difficulty with this painting.  I unwisely sat him against the light – liking the effect –  with myself at entirely the wrong angle, groping in the dark.  One should have the same strength and quality of  light on the work, as upon the sitter, for it to flow.   But I get sparked off by what happens when the light shines “through the lamp”.


12a Marisa

Marisa, about eight years old.


13 bela hatvany

Bela Hatvany – an early computer genius and macrobiotic enthusiast.


14 Sketch of F.Alan Cheales

Sketch of Father Alan Cheales, a natural rebel, and one of my early mentors.  He celebrated a childrens’ mass in the Aquinas centre at St Dominic’s, the “working mans’ cathedral” in South Hampstead.   He cared for scallywags and didn’t mind applying Christ’s teaching imaginatively.  He had strong gardeners’ hands, an actor’s presence, a commonsense compassion, and was much loved.


15 F.Alan Cheales

This is the painting I did for Father Alan’s congregation – it hangs at Blackfriars Hall, St Dominics’.  Behind him is his “right hand lady”, Teresa Higgins, and the kids mill around while the grownups drink coffee.  Alan was a member of the Meister Ekhart Society, knew his Jung, and did not get on very well with his Bishop.   At Speakers Corner in his medieval white and black robes, they knew his ringing voice.  It was his spiritual frontline.  He – an Aries – loved hecklers.


16 Eric Shipton

Eric Shipton, one of my early Himalayan heroes … on Nanda Devi or Everest in the 1930s.  Or he might be exploring a blank on the map, in the distant Karakorum.  Shipton disliked large expeditions.  He was an ardent and sensuous lover of remote topographic arcana “upon that mountain”;  finding ways along the  Shaksgam river to the legendary Snow Lake and Shimshal pass.  He travelled with Tilman, Auden and Spender (brothers of the poets) and a few Sherpa friends. No expedition into unexplored country was worthwhile, unless it could be organized on the back of an envelope.


17 Mother and Daughter

Mother and child.  Her name was Andrea, and we became good friends, during this.  She was a successful interior designer.  This drawing captures for me, something of the miracle of being a mother.  The child is awake and fully formed:  her destination, still sheltered, at a right-angle to her mother’s:  the newness, and the parent’s slight loss of vitality.


18 Little girl

Andrea’s daughter – very characteristic of my work with children in those days.  I worked very fast, and these two childrens’ portraits were done in perhaps 20 minutes each.  It was like being an athlete.  Children are easier than adults to draw, because they haven’t yet developed their masks.


19 Young boy

A young boy.  Both photos have lost their colour and crispness.


men, car and child

Men, car and child (1983).   My bundle of joy, of course.


20 sketch general geoffrey 1

Sketches for a painting of General Geoffrey Howlett, commissioned by the Parachute Regiment in 1988.


21 sketch general geoffrey 2

I spent about a week with my sitter, then brought the painting home to finish it over the next two months.  The General was living in Oslo.  I was flown there in the Queen’s aircraft from Northolt.   A small plane truly flies, tossed through the clouds;  frosty gins and tonics appeared;  the pilots let me sit with them in the cockpit for the spectacular Norwegian landing.

Winter was coming in;  the Scandinavian night sky – a brilliant violet-indigo depth among the stars and falling snow.  I lived it up with the diplomatic community in Oslo – a nightly circuit of joyous European dinner parties through every embassy in the city.  It was fun and far removed from brussels-sprout bureaucracy.  The guests’ gift-wrapped presents to their hosts were re-cycled next week, and never got opened.  Each embassy kept a quantity of them in the cupboard, pulling one out at random as soon as the furs were on, and the car at the door.

22 sketch general Geoffrey

When I painted someone, I became very close to their whole family, as I absorbed subliminal impressions into my visual archive, and listened to their anecdotes about my sitter.  It is a unique intimacy. It focuses on essences, loved ones, losses and family jokes:  a strangers’ privilege.   The artist is “alone”, and yet privy to what makes these persons tick, and in love with it all.   Then, like a gipsy, I packed up my gear and hit the road.   Sometimes we kept in touch.


23 general Geoffrey Howlett

This is the last big portrait I would paint, for a very long time.  He is wearing his “blues” and all his gongs and insignia.  By 1988/89 I broke through the crust into my interior path’s dharma, and had begun to study Buddha, Kabbalah and Alchemy.  I got an extraordinary pleasure from painting General Geoffrey’s medals and gongs.  The details and symbolism were carefully researched, and to paint them was a meditation.  I applied the same attentive resonance later on to esoteric diagrams and sacred geometry.  The painting was three foot long – almost life size.


24 Rosemary

This is Rosemary, head-teacher of a prestigious girls’ school in Kent.  This was commissioned for her departure, as she was head-hunted for a school in St Albans.  Again, the bulk of the painting was done from photos – in 2009 – and at my home.   I had a great deal of stress and trouble with it, though it came out well in the end, and the snowdrops are a tour de force.   Rosemary’s cross with a diamond in the middle “centres” the composition like a mandala – an axis for “toutes directions” through the window into the room.

I painted Geoffrey also as a mandala – the flow of vital expression around him is picked up by the brush and palette knife.   A painting is filled with living geologies.




Jane Adams

My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address

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