Cirque du Harley
About the work
From a Brisbane backyard to the international stage, professional circus performer Harley McLeish has been using his expressive face and physical prowess to entertain audiences for more than 20 years. I wanted to capture the moment when my lifelong friend transforms from an ordinary person into a Cirque du Soleil star.
The challenge was not only to bring out the quirkiness and energy but also to use colored pencils in a work of this size. The portrait had to be bold and vibrant like the circus, while revealing the subtle sparkle in the eyes and surrounding fine lines that invite viewers to emotionally connect with Harley as an individual.
I’m self-taught in portraiture, sitting at a desk in my Brisbane bedroom, experimenting with different mediums and facial features between schoolwork and playing soccer. When I wanted to create a realistic yet striking drawing, Harley sent the perfect photo from overseas. The completion of the work ten months later coincided with his return to Brisbane to perform. His surprise at seeing the detail in his own face was my reward.