Written by the fantastic and wonderful Eleonore Crompton for Attivo
If you want to inspire your children to become great artists, buy them the Beano. When other kids his age were playing on their Nintendos, professional portrait artist and Attivo client George Groves was studiously copying out scenes from his favourite comic and perfecting his Dennis the Menace. "I still have my stash of Beanos and annuals at home", he laughs. "I was always intrigued by the way the artists could convey so many different characters and the distinctive style of each one."
These days, Groves is more drawn to the works of Freud and Bacon for inspiration and has swapped his ink pens for oils, creating large-scale, highly detailed portraits, capturing the essence of some of the most inspiring figures of track and field as well as a long list of private commissions. A lot has changed but his desire to capture a unique sense of character prevails and Groves is fascinated by the stories that people's faces tell. "Portrait painting is story telling," he says. "Some of the people I've painted have the most incredible, intricate tales."
Case in point is Groves' incredibly soulful portrait of Mark Ormrod MBE, the former Royal Marine, Invictus Games athlete and author. Over the course of 2021, subject and sitter formed a close bond, Groves even taking up Jiu Jitsu on Ormrod's recommendation. The painting was sold partly to raise awareness of Mark's personal story but also in aid of REORG, a charity which raises money to help military veterans and service personnell mentally and physically through Jiu Jitsu.
When it came to unveiling the portrait, it was an incredibly moving moment. "We still talk and we'll probably do something together in the future," Groves says "A sitting can be so intimate. You have no outside distractions, it's just conversation. Through that you can create a bond that can last a lifetime."
George's income can be erratic with some months being super busy and other quieter, but the reassurance of his Attivo advisor keeps him on the straight and narrow. "Just walking into an art shop can be incredibly expensive," he jokes. "I'll go in for one tube of Cobalt blue and before you know it, I've spent a fortune! Having someone to advise and oversee your finances gives you an element of safety."
What about varnish? There seems to be a major trend for dousing oil painting in varnish That must add to the bills, especially with large scale paintings like Groves'? "It makes me wince when I see people do that! I don't want to sound like a snobby artist but when they have a jug of varnish and they pour it over a painting it kills me!" Has he ever thought of painting miniatures we ask? Could that be next? "Who knows? "He laughs. "No, I'll think I'll stick to 1.2-metre canvases while I still have the energy to carry them about. I love the impact of large-scale paintings."