‘Seek My Face’ was a large portrait commission funded by Sandwell Council and managed by Black Country arts organisation Multistory I worked on between 2006-2008. It developed out of a Longhouse Action Research Grant I was awarded which focussed on ‘Identity’. I was looking for an opportunity to develop my interest in portraiture by working in the wider community and making drawings of people I did not know. After 3 months of work on my research grant making drawings of different individuals, I was approached about developing these into a series of 25 portrait paintings that would represent the diverse community of Sandwell. I found volunteers by advertising through local community networks; contacts and leads I was given and following these through with lots and lots of telephone calls and e-mails to arrange a suitable time for a sitting. I preferred not to meet the sitter beforehand and therefore have any preconceived ideas about them or their features to think about, and after initial introductions we largely worked in silence. It was all about the challenge of just trying to get down on paper the experience of looking at that person in that moment in time and nothing else. I wasn't trying to tell stories or make psychological studies of character, but just present things 'as they are', concentrating only on surface appearances. The rest would then be shaped into the painting, in terms of scale and colour mainly, and presented back to the audience to contemplate more openly. I wasn’t that unfriendly, and we would chat a bit more after the drawing, (although some of the sitters spoke no English), and these conversations would sometimes make me think about the painting which would follow in the studio. Each week I would schedule sittings on my day off from work (I lecture four days a week), or on evenings, and find myself in very different places from Sikh Health centres; Day Centres; Hindu and Yemeni Community centres; the Sandwell Youth Parliament; people’s flats, gardens, living rooms and kitchens; back offices; libraries; factories; nose to beak with birds of prey; drawing the old; blind; young; different generations of families, from a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. I eventually made observational drawings of over 70 different individuals in different settings and made thirty large oil paintings. These were exhibited at West Bromwich Town Hall and The Public arts centre in West Bromwich, before donating many of them to the community. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had as an artist, and certainly a unique one. I met some wonderful people. I was born and raised in West Bromwich and the project helped to cement my relationship with the place. I was sad when the project ended but very grateful and privileged for what it had given me and my painting. Despite it being very hard work, I knew I would probably not get such an opportunity again.