Only One Question for…York portrait artist Sue Clayton on the art of painting faces

The eyes have it: Sue Clayton’s new portrait of Rotherham Covid-19 ward nurse Rachel Beal for #portraitsfornhsheroes

If eyes are “the window to the soul”, does that make them the most difficult facial feature to paint?

“FOR me, eyes are not the hardest things to paint but as a general rule – unlike many other portrait artists – I always paint the eyes last.

“To me they are the cherry on the cake and if I painted them first I wouldn’t give the rest of the face the attention it needs. 

“I can get very excited about skin/flesh, the colours there and how everything around a person reflects and changes the tone. Fascinating stuff…well, to me anyway!

“Arguably, I would say an open-mouth smile is the hardest part to paint: very hard to get natural looking.”

Sue Clayton has painted Rotherham Covid-19 ward nurse Rachel Beal for the #portraitsfornhsheroes project, from photographs sent by Rachel’s husband, Greg.

“One image particularly drew my attention: her smile beaming and her hands held up in a heart shape,” says Sue.