The portrait may not be "centimetre perfect", as its subject might say, but artist and former Eagles player Michael O’Connell is happy to get “within an inch” of a likeness of football broadcaster Dennis Cometti.
“He has got a really interesting face and in trying to get it right, I’m trying to put my spin on it,” O’Connell said of his entry for this year’s Archibald Prize.
The 2m by 1.7m painting Part of the Living Room depicts a washed-out looking Cometti sitting on a sofa with a TV on which the Channel 7 commentator looks more vibrant and animated.
O’Connell said he had tried to contrast the made-up TV performer’s face with the character of the individual away from the spotlight.
Cometti saw the finished work yesterday for the first time at the Rose Medical and Aesthetic Centre in North Fremantle, where O’Connell has a studio.
He said he was delighted to be chosen as a subject and had posed at seven sittings over several months.
Sometimes O’Connell’s father, former Claremont and Geelong champion John O’Connell, came to the studio to chew the fat over old times in the WAFL and VFL.
“It was a lovely experience hanging out with the O’Connell family,” Cometti said.
“I remember Michael as a footy player who was a little too courageous for his lanky frame. My biggest concern was whether he’d finish the painting uninjured.”
O’Connell played 20 games as part of the inaugural 1987 West Coast team.
He enrolled at art school as a player and has painted every day since and works as an art teacher.
His 2012 solo exhibition at the Moores Building in Fremantle featured superheroes in everyday suburban situations such as waiting for the bus or having a yarn at a backyard barbecue.
He said it was a big challenge to take on the best in the Archibald Prize.
“I just thought I’d get my work further out there and see what people think and what sort of response I get.”
Cometti had been very generous with his time and showed great interest in the painting process, he said.
O’Connell was not prepared to think about the prospect of being the first WA artist to win the Archibald, in which 50 finalists from 700 entries are selected to be shown at the Art Gallery of NSW. “All I’m shooting for is to get hung,” he said.
“That would be a success. I’ve worked for months on this thing and the judges will be passing judgment in just a few seconds. But I will run that 15-second risk.”
Entries close on June 9 and finalists are selected on July 10, with the winner named on July 18.