Artist Sarah Knights wants people to see King Charles III, not just as a king, but as a man. And she believes she accomplished that in her painting of the king that appears in the cover of the Tatler magazine.
In the painting, King Charles can be seen in side profile, seated on his throne, facing east, dressed in a black military uniform, against a background in shades of peach.
“Yes the king is royalty but I wanted him to be relatable as well. I wanted him to look a bit hopeful. I know people have their different feelings about the king but in my research I realised, when you take away all the accolades and titles, King Charles is a human being like all of us.”
In September of last year Knights, 40, was contacted by Khalil Akar, director of the Akoje Gallery in London, to paint a portrait of a female actress for the July issue of the British fashion and lifestyle magazine.
She told Sunday Newsday she was surprised when she was contacted via Instagram by the gallery that worked with the magazine.
“I had to make sure it wasn’t a hoax,” Knights laughed.
Around that same time, Queen Elizabeth II died so the project changed. She expected to be disappointed but was told the magazine still wanted her. This time, she would have to paint the soon-to-be king, Charles III.
She was allowed to paint what she wanted with the specific request that she painted in her style which had “imperfections” that gave texture and a weathered look to her work. The magazine’s main parameters were the size of the painting, and that a throne be included.
“When I’m painting I love to see the random spots and colours, things I didn’t predict happening. That’s what I look for. But they specifically requested that I do the painting in my style, which does not always happen with a commission, so I was happy about that.”
Knowing she would be painting the British monarch for the consumption of a mostly British public did not faze her. Instead, she was happy to retain the commission and forged ahead undaunted.
“Later on I thought about it. I knew there would be a lot of hype around the king by the time the magazine came out but, to be honest with you, I had to forget about all that and just had to focus on the king being the subject matter of the work. Because if you just focus on who the subject is, you might not get it done properly.”
Knights dove into her research. She read through tabloids and news articles to understand his character, and looked at photos of him throughout his lifetime. She paid attention to his eyes, looking for “that something” that she could see and understand who he was. She then used her husband of 11 years, Stefano Caines, as the model for the rest of the king’s body.
“After all of that I came to the conclusion he is simply a person who is vulnerable to scrutiny, to mistakes, to sickness, to death, like every one of us. And that is what I wanted to capture.”
In the end, she chose two photos to create his image and made six or seven small versions of the king in frontal and side profiles for the client. When one was chosen, she “went big” and worked on the final piece for four months.
Even now that Tatler released the cover and her painting is getting international attention, the painting holds no extra significance for Knights than any of her other work.
“I haven’t really gotten the chance to rest, look at the painting properly and take in anything. The whole project has been a really hectic one. It was getting up very early to do some work (painting), going to school, going back home to work...and now I’m smack bam in the middle of (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) exams.”
Knights has been teaching visual arts for nine years at Holy Faith Convent, Couva.
She participated in several group exhibitions since graduating with a degree in fine arts from UWI in 2011, and held her first solo exhibit, ONE THOUSAND MEs, in 2018. She has continued to teach, paint and exhibit over the past five years and is thinking about having another solo exhibition later next year – maybe.