Belfast Telegraph

It's a privilege, says Northern Ireland painter chosen for Bill Clinton portrait

By Brett Campbell

A Belfast-born artist feels honoured to have been chosen to "capture the humanity" of former US President Bill Clinton for his latest portrait.

Colin Davidson, whose painting of the Queen was unveiled by Her Majesty in 2016, has been commissioned by the Clinton Foundation to paint a new canvas which will soon adorn the walls of the Clinton Centre in Enniskillen. "I suppose in some ways, I am attempting to capture the human being behind the face," Colin said.

"The President himself afforded me the privilege of being able to see that."

Mr Davidson, who is currently applying the finishing touches to the four by four foot canvas after sitting down with the former President in New York City, said the occasion had a special significance for him.

In 2017, he painted the former SDLP leader, John Hume - it followed on from his Silent Testimony exhibition, which revealed the tragic stories of 18 people connected by their individual experiences of loss at the hands of the turbulent 30 year conflict here.

"That is probably my most important body of work," Colin said. "It captures the expression of those who suffered loss as a result of the Troubles. I have a real interest in marking key moments in time."

Colin relished the opportunity to paint President Clinton, who regards his contribution to the peace process in Northern Ireland as his most significant foreign policy achievement.

"As an artist, I'm commenting on the work that he did to advance the cause of peace," he said.

Other familiar faces among the award-winning artist's portfolio include Liam Neeson, Brad Pitt and Ed Sheeran.

His Jerusalem 2014 exhibition featured a dozen portraits of the known and unknown to tell the complex story of the ancient city.

"Every sitting and encounter is different - the need to keep quiet or to talk is different - but on this occasion, we chatted, mainly about the peace process," Colin said.

"We engaged the whole time - he is still very passionate about the work he did here and it was a huge honour to be asked to do this."

During the deep and meaningful conversation, which lasted for several hours, Colin compiled more than 20 preparatory shorthand ink drawings and took numerous photographs before returning to his studio in Crawfordsburn.

"It takes months, and layers upon layers of oil on up to 10 paintings at one time, before I can decide on the final form - it's important to capture the right expression to reveal as much as possible," he said.

"I have no precise deadline in mind, but I'm aware it has to be unveiled at some stage."

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