Meet the Artist: Tracy Carson, the Portrait Artist

Yoga teacher Tracy Carson developed her dream home from a derelict old farmhouse. The move gave her the creative space to develop a skill in portraiture and create art and yoga retreats that appeared on the TV programme, A New Life in the Sun

Tracy first came to the Algarve 15 years ago and initially displayed her artistic sense in the property’s design: “It is open plan and there’s so much light it’s the perfect place to create.” And create she does! Tracy specialises in portraits working on private bespoke commissions, as well as creating work for exhibitions.

Her studio at home is a special place: “I’m very fortunate to have a studio space in the upstairs part of our villa with huge open patio doors to allow the sun to stream in. My view is the Portuguese countryside, with a gentle breeze to cool me as I paint.”

Tracy Carson was born in Liverpool and moved to Scotland when she was eight years old. She left home aged 18 and studied fashion and textiles, first in Glasgow, then at Edinburgh College of Art. She spent most of her adult life living in Edinburgh until she discovered Portugal.

“When I was a young girl, my happy place was with my sketchbook and my pencils. I was a very quiet child and spent a lot of time just drawing. I go into the flow state where time stands still when I am working. It’s very therapeutic and meditative. I always surprise myself with the finished result, as if somehow somebody else has created it.”

Using various mediums, her work is full of colour and vibrancy. Influenced by David Hockney’s early work and the pop art movement, she loves to paint with acrylics and sometimes uses mixed media to add texture and depth to her pieces. When she works with pen and ink, she uses hatching and pointillism techniques to create wonderfully animated and realistic drawings.

Her method of working is fascinating: “I look at an image, dissect and then reconfigure it like a jigsaw puzzle. I break it down into tonal pieces created by the negative and positive spaces surrounding the sitter.”

Tracy works personally with each sitter, aiming to capture their true self, that little spark that makes each artwork truly unique. Ideas for a painting can come from anywhere.

“My inspiration sometimes comes from a photograph I have taken. Or when somebody is just sitting minding their own business and I see a reflection or the way the sun catches their hair and I ask if I can take their photograph.”

Tracy is currently enjoying working on some larger-scale commissions, and for the first time, she has created something other than portraits. Taking her inspiration from the flora and fauna of the Algarve in all its beauty and vibrancy, she recently finished a commission, which was a large 2m x 2m piece called ‘Eden’. “I don’t have a favourite painting. It’s so difficult to choose, like asking me to choose my favourite child. It is sometimes hard to give them up, though and sell them. I have one that I will never sell. It was the first big piece of my son, Lucas, called ‘Head in the Clouds’. It was the first painting I did during COVID and it helped me get through those difficult times when I couldn’t travel to see my children.”

Tracy also occasionally runs classes, teaching people how to create their own portraits. These are held at her villa, or at the Kit and Caboodle secondhand store in Almancil. Tracy is also a yoga teacher and hosts retreats at her villa. She often incorporates art therapy within the retreats and uses it as a way to meditate and create. You may even have seen her on Channel 4’s A New Life in the Sun programme last year. They filmed her yoga retreats and Tracy creating artwork for a local restaurant near Boliqueime called O Lavrador.

This talented local artist is one of the five members of the Quinta Art Collective. They are a diverse group of artists and friends with work ranging from fine art, portraits, fibre art, sculpture and mixed media artwork. They currently have an exhibition running until 14 of July at the Museu do Traje in São Brás de Alportel.


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