Darren Baker is used to accepting high-profile commissions. Since graduating from Bradford Art College in 1998 he’s captured the likes of HRH The Prince of Wales and former Prime Minister Tony Blair on canvas, applying his signature ‘hyper-realism’ style.
But Darren’s career highlight came in 2011 when the Legion invited the artist to paint its patron, HM The Queen. The new portrait marked not only the monarch’s 85th birthday, but also the Legion’s 90th anniversary.
“To get the composition I wanted with the room and the view out of the window, I needed to include the whole person"Darren Baker
“It really was a monumental experience, going through the doors of Buckingham Palace and meeting Her Majesty for the first time,” he says.
Darren was happy to offer his artistic services to the charity at no cost.
“As I became more involved in the project I learned more about the work the Legion does, so I felt compelled and inspired to help the charity by creating a portrait that did it justice,” he adds.
Her Majesty The Queen
Unlike other official artworks of Her Majesty, which usually feature only her head and shoulders, Darren decided on a full-length portrait.
“To get the composition I wanted with the room and the view out of the window, I needed to include the whole person. I had also studied all Her Majesty’s previous portraits and I thought it would make it stand out more.”
HM The Queen sits for all her official portraits in Buckingham Palace’s yellow drawing room. Darren visited it twice before the first sitting to determine exactly where he wanted her to sit.
“During my second visit I decided that she should sit near the window. I had a bit more time to take things in and noticed the stunning view of the Mall and the Queen Victoria Memorial, and I thought that would be a really good backdrop for the portrait.”
Darren spent 200 hours on the portrait, but just a quarter of that on painting HM The Queen.
"The background took a lot of time because it formed such a massive portion and the room was so detailed," he says. "I enjoyed trying to get the reflections of the wallpaper in the mirror, and replicating the glaze and embellishments of the vase. The drapes were a bit of a challenge as well."
Sharp eyes will notice that the watch on HM The Queen's left wrist appears to read 11 o'clock. This was deliberate, says Darren.
"It seemed a subtle way of emphasising Her Majesty's links with the Legion and, fortunately, she was wearing a wristwatch on the day of the sitting."
The grey sky sets the sombre tone of Darren's painting. It was overcast on the day of the initial sitting, but he chose to make it gloomier in the finished portrait.
"I didn't want to paint the sky as it was on the day because it would have taken away form the atmosphere of the piece."
Darren was given the option of two dresses by HM The Queen's dresser. He opted for the blue outfit for two reasons. "Blue is synonymous with the Legion, but also it provided a good contrast with the yellows and greens within the room," he says. "It was a perfect choice."