Sunday’s Profile- Peter James Field

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We place our focus on artist and illustrator Peter James Field, most recently seen on television in the Sky Arts Portrait Artist Of The Year – turning his attention to celebrity model actress Doreen Mantle. Last year his work was recognised and included in the Royal Society Portrait Painters 2019 collection, and the year before he was included in the BP Portrait Award 2018 exhibition. Working with celebrities and business commentators, splitting his attention between illustration and oil painting, Peter James Field shared his love of faces and Brighton with us.

What are you doing today?

Today I am doing some pencil portraits of columnists for a French energy magazine.

Describe where you do most of your creative work.

I have a studio in the centre of Brighton, sharing with two other wonderful creative people in New England House. I’ve been there for ten years now and I’ve found that New England House is a great place to work, filled with other artists and creative thinkers.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?

Last month I was on Sky TV. I had four hours to paint a celebrity, on camera, in a public event – so it was a total leap out of my comfort zone, as I normally work in quite a quiet solitary way.

It was terrifying beforehand, but it turned out to be a really positive experience – if only in showing me what I could achieve in a short timeframe. This is helping to expand my ideas of what I might be able to achieve artistically in the future.

What made you decide to become an artist?

I sort of feel like it chose me, from a really young age. I know it sounds corny, but I can’t remember an actual decision to do it. It certainly feels more like a calling than a job.

What are you currently working on?

I have two streams of work: illustration and fine art. In my illustration I’m currently doing the pencil portraits. For myself, I’m doing a painting of a well known person, who I approached through his agent. I don’t want to jinx it by sharing too much, but it’s very exciting and I can’t wait to reveal it.

What are the key themes in your work?

I’m very interested in portraiture. I’ve been an illustrator for 15 years and I’ve drawn a lot of faces. In the last three years I’ve been pushing my own personal take on portraiture. I’ve spent so many years doing portraits in a flattering fashion – now I want a diversity of subjects in my paintings. I want to show the face in such a way that it communicates greater expression and feeling than a photograph ever could. 

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What would you like people to notice about your work?

The ideal would be for people to get some kind of sense of connection – even if it’s to someone they don’t know or recognise – to get a sense of who that person is, the light behind their eyes. If I can do that I’ll feel I’ve done a successful thing.

What attracts you to the medium you work in?

I work a lot in oil paint and I love the fact that it’s semi-transparent, so it can be layered and also that it takes days to dry, so it can be worked for a long time. It’s very malleable.

What equipment could you not do without?

For the first year of painting I used to work flat on a table… and then I got an easel for Christmas 2018. I couldn’t work without an easel now.

Who or what inspires you?

Well, I’ve got a degree in Art History so my background is being a massive Art History buff. I’m influenced by all the other artists that have come before me.

My all time favourite artist, if pushed, is Goya. He just did amazing portraits and graphic art. He was really the first modern artist in a lot of ways.

How is your work affected by living in this area?

Of course, it’s a very creative city and there are lots of artists here. It’s really great to meet not only with artists but with other creatives – musicians, writers, performers – and exchange ideas. I’m especially fortunate with this in working in New England House, which is full of creative people.

What’s your favourite thing to do locally?

I like going to gigs. That’s my fun thing to do in Brighton.

What’s your favourite gallery or place to see/experience art?

This is a bit obvious, but in London I love the National Portrait Gallery. Props to the Portrait Gallery.

The other place is Pallant House in Chichester. It’s like someone looked into my mind and saw all of the art I loved and put it in one place.

If you could collaborate with any one artist from any time, who would it be and why?

I would go back to Jan Van Eyck’s studio so that he could teach me the Renaissance technical way of painting. It’s not so much a collaboration, I guess, but if he could take me on as an apprentice then that would be amazing.

What’s your favourite colour?

I don’t have a favourite colour – all artists know that any colour is only as good as the colour it’s placed next to.

To find out more about Peter’s work check out his website at

Instagram @peterjamesfield / @peterjamesfield_illustration

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