Charlotte Ashenden
Since 1998, I have been painting portraits of children, adults, animals and houses. I greatly enjoy all these subjects, although a lot of my work is of children. They are very good at just being themselves, and have not yet learned how to be too guarded!


I work in watercolour, oil or conte (akin to a fine charcoal, on tinted paper). Each has its own unique quality and although the end results are very different, with all mediums I concentrate on bringing out the delicate tones and textures of each subject.

With watercolour and oil, I can bring out the translucent 'light' in their skin and eyes, the sheen and depth of colour in their hair. I also enjoy not being restricted in the amount of detail I can lay down - the individual hairs in eyelashes and eyebrows, for example, add a delicacy and life to a portrait and bring a face into focus.

With conte, there is the beauty of a more monochromatic work. The tinted paper means that the middle tone is already provided, and so one works with blacks, brown, umber and whites to bring out areas of shadow, and then highlights, to provide the contours of the face.


I'm based in Norfolk but travel regularly to London. I prefer to visit the client in their home as the subject is usually most relaxed there. This includes visits to overseas clients and I travel worldwide.

I work from sittings, which I love, or photographs, which tend to work very well and increasingly serve a purpose these days. Life is increasingly busy for us all and often the adults I am commissioned to paint have young families and very full lives. Where children are concerned, they often find sittings boring (or completely impossible, depending on their age!). The length of the photo-session depends on the number of people I am photographing, but usually takes about an hour. If possible, I like to chat or play with the child for a while in order to familiarise myself with their faces, get a good idea of their personality and see what facial expressions are really 'them'.

The client and I then choose the best image for the portrait. We work together on this as they know exactly the expression they want to capture in the face of the subject (this includes animals!), whereas I have experience with what makes a good composition. Times for completion vary - from a few days for a simple drawing (and my time allowing), to several months for, say, a large oil painting of a family. So it's always worth checking, as I will try to fit in with your schedule if I can.

If the portrait is to be a surprise present for a partner or friend, and it is impossible to arrange a photo session without giving the game away, then a favourite (clearly detailed) photograph can be emailed or sent to me, preferably with any others that show the child from different angles. I have done many portraits of children in this way for overseas clients, so have a lot of experience with this method.

© 2022 All images property of Charlotte Ashenden