RMG Shield logo Redbridge Group Header Logo RMG Shield logo
A Portrait Of A Milligoon
by Alan Mansfield

It has been suggested to me by a number of fans of the late Spike Milligan that I should write a short article for the Redbridge Marquetry Group’s web site on how the portrait I did of Spike came about and how I produced it.

Well, for members of the Marquetry Society itself they will have already read an extended article on this very subject in the Winter 2002 issue of the magazine “The Marquetarian” so for this web site article I shall write a condensed version of the original 8 page piece, in addition I shall include some of the illustrations that were not previously included in the Marquetarian article.

In the spring of 2000 I suggested to Spike that I would like to make a portrait of him by using the medium of marquetry instead of paint. Spike was very enthusiastic about the idea and invited me along to his home overlooking the Sussex coast so that we could undertake a few preliminary sittings in order for me to do some sketches and take a few reference photos and for us to agree upon a design.

So in September 2000 my helper and I (being disabled, they accompany me on such journeys) arrived at Spikes house for the first sitting. Trying to do my preliminary sketches proved to be a really difficult task because Spike, being Spike, treated us to an impromptu one man “Spike Milligan show”, it was all I could do to try and keep my pencils and paints steady whilst I was rocking about with so much laughter!

Spike eventually managed to keep quiet for a few moments and with great restraint somehow managed to compose himself enough for me to take some reference photos (a couple of which I’m including here). Finally (and with aching sides from so much laughter) I ended up with enough material from which to put together a good portraiture composition.

Being a marquetry portrait it inevitably required a lengthy period of time to produce the finished work, one of the main problems being finding the correct tints and shades of veneer pieces needed to make a convincing portrait without it taking on the appearance of a cartoon. The portrait itself took somewhere in the region of 18 months to complete. Unfortunately although Spike and I kept in regular contact about the progress of the portrait a kidney disease took its ultimate toll on Spike’s life in February 2002 just a few weeks before the portrait was finished, so ironically Spike never got to see the finished picture, but I think he would have been pleased to know that it did actually win the portraiture award at the National Exhibition of that same year.

To understand how the picture was built up I’m including some slightly altered versions of the illustrations that were first published in the Marquetarian magazine issue number 201. As the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words” so hopefully this series of pictures will give you an insight as to how the finished portrait came into being.

If you have any queries on this subject please e-mail us by using the link on our “contact us” page and I’ll do my best to provide an answer to your query.

Spike at home 1

Spike at home 2

Spike colour sketch A The tracing B
Blocking in 1 C Blocking in 2 D
Full view of blocking in stage E Some detail is added F
Adding triangles G Adding spear points H
Finished portrait I The full portrait J
Tutorials Menu