'Proverbs are universal, and although paintings cannot be entirely universal, as they are always attached to their context, I tend not to pursue the personal in my paintings. In this series I have painted the same people as in previous series, perhaps because it is not about them at all. They are just people enacting people. Life is so very painful and full of struggle. If I dived into my own experience of pain in my work I would never emerge again. For me painting is about touching lightly, lovingly, on the painful places, and offering a soothing, holding space, with a bit of humour, a light slap, a prod and a caress. I am not the first person to point out that joy can only exist in the context of pain. This lightness of touch, this lack of the personal, can feel very insubstantial, but I don’t mind that. I get relief from continuing in the face of that emptiness, in fact the whole point is to draw a beautiful veil across the emptiness.
The word in my mind as I first had an idea for this painting was ‘hero’. The young, brave heart gazing up, in the Romantic tradition. And it really is like that. This is my younger son - the first time he’s modelled for me again, after a five-year break. I understand why one wouldn’t want to, but I’m so glad he let me. I like the pond device because it reflects another reality beyond the picture. The plane is outrageous, unashamedly dramatic and crass. Would there be a better medium for an image like this? Maybe an animation, I don’t know. For me the plane becomes quite irrelevant, and it is the grass, and leaves, and bits of nature where my mind wanders. And the mouse.'