Trentham local top portrait prize finalist

Trentham local Louise Otten has been named a semi-finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. 

LAYERING: There are eight to 10 stages of layering to Louise Otten's portraits. The layering stages have begun on a work in progress (left). Picture: Dylan Burns.

LAYERING: There are eight to 10 stages of layering to Louise Otten's portraits. The layering stages have begun on a work in progress (left). Picture: Dylan Burns.

Her portrait titled ‘The Poppyman’ profiles Ron Davis, a local sculptor who has a passion for creating lead poppy sculptures from used bullets. Davis donates money from the sale of his lead sculptured poppies to returning soldiers and writes poems to include with them. 

Otten said she admired Davis’ work turning bullets into beauty, making him an intriguing subject for her portrait.

“I come up with people I find interesting and have to feel some sort of admiration or respect for them and what they are doing in their lives, or if they are artists I admire their work. That is how I find people I want to paint,” Otten said. 

“I really need to know them a little bit rather than paint unknown people. I prefer to know a person to be able to put characteristics in the painting and to get some of their personality in the painting.”

PORTRAIT: Trentham artist Louise Otten said it was the challenge that drew her to painting portraits, to add personality to the likeness. Picture: Dylan Burns.

PORTRAIT: Trentham artist Louise Otten said it was the challenge that drew her to painting portraits, to add personality to the likeness. Picture: Dylan Burns.

THE POPPYMAN: Louise Otten's portrait of local sculptor Ron Davis has been listed as a semi-finalist for the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. Picture: Louise Otten.

THE POPPYMAN: Louise Otten's portrait of local sculptor Ron Davis has been listed as a semi-finalist for the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. Picture: Louise Otten.

Otten said it was the idea of a challenge that drew her to painting portraits. 

“It’s a challenge to get a good likeness for a start, but if you then can take it beyond that, beyond a likeness and put something from yourself in it plus the person’s personality, then that could be a good portrait,” she said.

"That is what I admire in a lot of portrait artists. They take it beyond that stage of a likeness.”

This year is the second time Otten has been named a semi-finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, a competition she has entered each year since 2011. 

“It is nerve-racking (painting portraits) because people look at themselves differently,” Otten said.

“When you look in the mirror and you look at yourself you see the other side. So when you paint a person they might see it and not actually relate much to their face. But fortunately all the people I have painted have been pretty happy with their portrait.” 

Painting has occupied Otten’s time since early years when, as the sixth child in her family, she would amuse herself with pencils and paint. Otten said she also had always been interested in people’s stories. 

“A painting like this tells a story,” she said. “But it is interesting for the semi-finalists because you don’t write anything down, just your name, who you have painted, and the technical details. That is all they (the judges) know, so they don’t know what the story is. They picked it maybe because of the mystery.”

Otten also enters the Archibald Prize each year. She teaches private classes in her Trentham studio and weekly life drawing classes. 30 finalists will now be selected for the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.