Painting pictures is a tricky business at the best of times.
Dabbing coloured goo onto fabric with a hairy stick in an attempt to create a recognizable image, such as a bowl of fruit or a particularly handsome cat, is an activity that invites frustration and failure.
Compared to portraiture, though, it has one redeeming aspect: it’s virtually unheard of for a bunch of bananas, or Tiddles from next door, to offer an opinion on your efforts.
The thing is, everyone has a very private view of their own appearance.
No matter how long you stare at your reflection, it’s always back to front, and that’s before we get to the issues of which expressions we’re comfortable with.
Add to that the layers of complexity that form the encyclopedia of our self awareness and the whole thing becomes a bit of a challenge.
So, do you paint somebody as they see themselves, or as you see them?
Phil is a man who rarely troubles his mirrors for an opinion.
He and I travelled across Scotland together, and during that time I saw him a little more clearly in the grey, Celtic light.
His story is both commonplace and extraordinary, a mix of great good fortune and teeth-clenching adversity that would have driven a lesser man to his knees.
Every man has a mountain to climb, and for Phil it was Ben Nevis.
We gave it our best shot, but as a metaphor for life it proved less than cooperative, and we conceded defeat, backed off and went to the pub.
Several months later I got a call.
Against the advice of the medical profession, his horoscope and his own common sense, he had gone back, and was now standing on top of the biggest bump in Britain.
I painted him as I saw him then.
He’s too modest to recognize himself, but in looking at his own image he may see himself as others do.
I sincerely hope so.