JoMA Contents

« The kinetic art of Tom Haney | Main | Sunday Poem »

April 25, 2008


Hmmm, Let's see. Borderland/Bordertown book covers or Tony Blair ...

[flipping a coin]

Heads !

A-yup, he should stick with book covers.

Sorry, Rob, I have to disagree -- as much I loved the Bordertown book covers, I think this is a really interesting and edgy portrait of a controversial Prime Minister. (Actually, I think it's a killer portrait even if the man were not famous.)

Phil won 3rd place in the National Portrait Gallery's annual competition in 2000, and then 2nd prize (for a self-portrait) in 2001. This work gained him many admirers in the U.K., which eventually led to the Blair commission. They are astonishing paintings when viewed in person.
You can see the self-portrait here, if you scroll part-way down this article:

And here's my favorite of his portraits, which is in the National Portrait Gallery's permanent collection:

Phil has been living in London now for many years, but he used to live in Boston, where he shared a studio with Rick Berry on the floor below our original Endicott Studio space (which I shared with Rick's wife Sheila) on Endicott Street. I used to love wandering down to their studio late at night, where they plied me with whiskey and taught me how to paint...

"...He should stick with book covers."

What a narrow-minded comment. And a very political one. I loved those Bordertown covers, too -- but why would I want to suggest that Phil Hale limit himself?

Those are intriguing portraits -- as is his self-description as a documentarian -- and also intriguing to envision the process of painting a portrait in "slow-time."

You go, Phil!

Thanks for posting this, Terri.


Robert, I think Rob's comment was meant tongue-in-cheek -- and wit sometimes falls flat on the internet, where it's not modified by tone of voice, expression, etc. So personally (and in order to keep our usual tone of civility on this blog) I'm inclined to cut him some slack.

But thank you nonetheless for sticking up for Phil's portrait art. I agree that his portraits are amazing; they really make you *think*. I've lived in England for almost 20 years now, and I'm personally no fan of Tony Blair and his policies (don't get me started, since a Mythic Arts forum isn't the proper place for a discussion of British politics!), but for me Phil is right when he says this portrait "humanizes" Blair. I remember the fresh-faced young man he was when he first took office ...and the sheer exhaustion on his face in Phil's portrait speaks volumes about his turbulent years as PM. It speaks volumes about the painter's skill as well.


Rob's comment caught me in an annoyed moment, and I regretted the 'narrow-minded' comment right after I sent it. So...I take back that comment.

I'm no Blair fan, either -- and think Phil's portrait, does give a glimpse of the man behind the office. And too, think it also speaks truth to power, in a subtle way. Definitely not the typical PM portrait.

Your posting lead me to taking a major surf through the National Portrait Gallery's web pages, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Was there in person long ago in the mid-70s...


Oh I loved those covers.
The paintings are so different, I was not expecting anything like that.
I still reread my borderland books, they were just the right magic at the right time in my life.

That is really powerful, and his use of light ambivalent. I'm glad they're still commissioning painted portraits in a digital age. And even more that we can share them via technology.

The comments to this entry are closed.

About this blog

  • The Journal of Mythic Arts was a pioneering online magazine dedicated to Mythic Arts: literary, visual, and performance arts inspired by myth, folklore, and fairy tales. Published by The Endicott Studio, co-edited by Terri Windling & Midori Snyder, JoMA ran from 1997 to 2008.

    This blog was active from 2006 - 2008, and is kept online as an archive only. Please note that no new material has been posted since 2008, and links have not been updated.

    For more recent discussions of Mythic Arts, fantasy literature, and related topics, visit Terri Windling's Myth & Moor and Midori Snyder's Into the Labyrinth.

Where you'll find us now

  • Visit The Endicott Studio website here, and our news blog here.

    Visit Terri Windling's Studio here.