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Page last updated at 17:48 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 18:48 UK
John Westwood portrait scores
Karl Rudziak's painting of John PFC Westwood
Karl Rudziak's painting of John PFC Westwood

A portrait of fanatical Portsmouth supporter John Westwood is hanging in one of the most prestigious art exhibitions in the world.

John Westwood, who has 'Portsmouth Football Club'as his middle names, is unmistakeable around Fratton Park.

Local artist Karl Rudziak's painting of John won a place at the prestigious BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The painting was one of 53 selected from over 1,900 entries.


The idea of painting John Westwood - who has 60 Portsmouth tattoos on his body, the club crest shaved onto his head and 'PFC' engraved on his teeth - occurred to Karl during Pompey's FA Cup-winning season.

He explained: "I wanted to capture something about the city of Portsmouth.

"I soon realised it wasn't about football - it was about John's identity, he uses the word 'passion' a lot and gets really emotional about it. All these tattoos on his body externalise his love of the football club - it's so intriguing."

Karl and John held several sittings, including early meetings at The Newcome Arms - getting to know his subject's character in a relaxed environment is as important to Karl as actually putting brush to canvas.

The painting emerged over 8 months, and at 2 metres high, was Karl's biggest painting to date. If fact, it was so big it couldn't fit up his stairs and had to be painted in his front room at his Old Portsmouth home.

"He is such a big character, it just had to be lifesized", explained Karl.

Interactive artist

45 year-old Karl works in graphic design and branding, but admits he has always been drawn to producing individual portraits:

Karl Rudziak
Karl Rudziak

"With a portrait, someone will first see a painting, then they see a person and project their values onto it.

"It's very collaborative, it involves a dialogue between the artist and the person being painted.

"I always want to keep painting until it is perfect. It's a cyclical thing - no painting is perfect and you keep trying to make it perfect - so it never stops. You just have to discipline yourself to finish when the point is reached when you are happy that it communicates what you want it to."

But for the moment he is revelling in the the achievement of being chosen out of 1,900 entries for show at the National Portrait gallery.

"If I'm not painting I get grumpy!...it's a great way of communicating. I get very itchy to work on a new canvas.

"It's easily the best thing to happen in my creative career - as an artist it's a real stamp of validation - I can still barely believe it! I want to utilise this creative opportunity.

"It's a well-worn cliché but every painting really is a journey - with ups and downs along the way" - not unlike the roller coaster emotions experienced by a football fan, in fact.

The exhibition continues at the National Portrait Gallery until 20 September 2009 and will then go on tour where it will be shown at the Southampton City Art Gallery from 28 September - 30 November 2009, and at the Dean Gallery, Edinburgh, from 12 December 2009 - 21 February 2010.


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