The reveal ceremony for the official portrait of retiring Oulu Conservatory Director Ahti Alatalo was on October 10, 2014 at the Oulu Music Center.
I felt very honoured to be chosen personally by Ahti Alatalo to paint his portrait. I met him a little over a year ago when he visited my open studio event, and mysteriously mentioned in passing that he looked forward to working with me. It was only a few months later, with the first email exchanges with the Oulu Conservatory, that I realised what the plan was.
During the first sitting we discussed Alatalo's career as an opera singer, his favourite roles and what colours he preferred. We decided to reference his career through the pose. His favourite role is alluded to with words from the opening line of an aria submerged in the background. At first I thought I was going to complete the painting as a "straight" realist composition, but when Alatalo saw how the background was progressing, he insisted that I use my "known" style.
It was a pleasure to work with Alatalo. During our sessions we listened to opera and the birds outside in the garden, chatted about travel and family, and were rattled in the studio by a roadwork team building a pedestrian path nearby.