Felicia Forte – National Portrait Gallery
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Felicia Forte

Can you tell us about the series of prints available as part of the anniversary year, and the inspiration behind them?

First I painted ‘I’ll Miss you, Good Riddance’ in 2015 during the year it took to wrap up my eight years of living and building my career in San Francisco. I had moved to that city and into the apartment that is the setting of this painting in what now seems like another life, with a very different future in mind. Circumstances changed my path, and a new start was dreamed up. It was a strange sensation to feel equally mournful and exhilarated in sacrificing so many things- all of them represented here in paint by my favourite place at my kitchen window.

Next, in 2016 I painted ‘Where Were You’. At that time my subject matter was becoming more and more personal: my objects and living space, portraits of myself and my partner. I wanted to work on painting the figure, and I felt that to be faithful to my voice I needed to paint myself. Terrifying. It feels impossible to retain objectivity when looking at your own reflection, and to paint you need to remain calm and objective. Finding that balance was a worthy challenge, and it also taught me that vulnerability is very important to me in making worthwhile art. To date this is the only painting like this I’ve made.

Lastly, in 2017 I painted ’Something to Say’ during a three month live-in residency in Detroit. I was tasked that summer to create an entirely new body of work in half the time it would usually take me. I was painting 12 hour days six days a week, and it was miraculous how that pace ignited my creativity and burned away the doubts and vacillation that freedom and abundant time can produce. This painting was something akin to a notepad for me during the creation of the other major works, like ‘Time Traveller, Matthew Napping’ (2nd Prize BP 2018). I would pick it up and sketch an idea, putting it away when my attention waned, and picking it up again later with another idea. First a self-portrait then a cat I’d met on walks in my neighbourhood, it built slowly over the duration of the residency.

I suppose that the one thing which ties these paintings together, is that they are all a type of self-portrait.


What difference did being part of the BP Portrait Award make to you as an artist?

It’s always difficult to quantify these things, at least until time gives you that 20/20 hindsight. At this point I can say that I’ve met many lovely new friends and fellow artists, and have been invited to show in a variety of new venues. I also now have a standing teaching engagement at London Fine Arts Studios each February.