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The subject of Gerard Smith’s portrait is publisher Helen Littleton, head of non-fiction at HarperCollins Australia.
‘Helen and I go back to when we were students together at the University of New England,’ says Smith. ‘When I first approached her about the Archibald, I met her at the HarperCollins offices, overlooking Hyde Park. The strong morning light streamed in and I was struck by how it played with the human and architectural surfaces in front of me.’
The painting is half acrylic and half oil paint. ‘I used acrylic for the office background because manufactured surfaces are flat and unforgiving, and oils for Helen, as I wanted to emphasise the contrast between the architecture of the building and the more layered, biological architecture of a living human form. It was also important to me not to remove her from the environment that has allowed her to be so successful as a publisher,’ says Smith
Born in Sydney, Smith is a self-taught artist. He developed his technique while working in an art supplies shop and testing products. He currently works full-time as a graphic designer. He has taught art classes, and in 2008 published The weekend artist, a beginner’s guide to creating basic artworks.