ARTIST Rachel Milne is arguably one of the luckiest creators in the region right now.
She is painting a life portrait of Maitland Regional Art Gallery cultural director Joe Eisenberg, just metres from the 54 works in the Archibald Prize exhibition.
The high standard of the Archibald paintings has “inspired” the Newcastle woman, who describes herself as a “figurative oil painter”, to set her sights on entering the work in this year’s competition.
Ms Milne is painting Mr Eisenberg in his office, and intends to play with the bleeding light coming in the window.
She likes to create shadows and prefers to paint her subjects in their ‘‘natural environment’’ so she can capture their personality.
“It is really inspiring to look at those works and it’s lovely to be able to look at my painting and then judge it against the other Archibalds that were successful this year,” Ms Milne said.
She spent four hours last week painting Mr Eisenberg, but it will be several weeks before the work is finished.
“I’ll paint him in and I’ll paint the office in and then I’ll scrub it all back and start again,” she said. “It’s like I’m trying to teach my brain to learn about the shapes in the office and talking to Joe and learning about Joe.”
The oil-on-plywood painting will commemorate Mr Eisenberg’s retirement in June.
Ms Milne hopes to capture ‘‘a feeling of warmth’’ in the work and reveal her subject’s ‘‘affectionate nature’’.
‘‘Spending time with people and getting to know them, I couldn’t tell you why, but it adds to a portrait,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s a very strange relationship; you don’t really know the person yet, and yet it’s quite intimate and you’re trying to suss them out and pull them out of themselves and show a little bit of who they are.’’
Ms Milne came to Australia two years ago after growing up in the UK and has always had a passion for portraiture.
She said the key to a good portrait was to ‘‘find the quirks’’ in the person and ‘‘try to pull them out’’.
Ms Milne will have two more sittings with Mr Eisenberg before she takes the work to her studio.