The magic of enigma

Earlier this week I shared a story to my Facebook page about the Onna-Bugeisha, Feudal Japan's women Samurai.

I wrote about how these women may turn out to be a source of inspiration for a painting or two at some point down the line.

Interestingly, someone commented that it's better to paint archetypal characters rather than actual individuals, and this is exactly what I do. I very rarely paint portraits that have a physical likeness to a real person. Even if I am commissioned to paint a portrait, I will usually paint some aspect of the subject's character, rather than what they may see when they look in the mirror.

This is because I feel that portraits of actual people can 'seal out' the viewer in some way. You are an observer of another person who is not you – even if you're looking at a painting of yourself. But, if the identity of the figure is enigmatic, you can then start to see aspects of your true self in the painting. You can 'try on' the painting's identity a little bit, and make its story, your story.

I am fascinated to note that my paintings often find homes with people who are like them. By that I mean that I can often see a match in terms of personality, character traits or emotions.

This is one of the things about being an artist that intrigues me the most. Through art, we can reveal and express parts of ourselves we may not even be aware of.

Even if you are a Samurai warrior.