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Alumna Delivers Portrait with Flair and Words of Wisdom

Alumna Delivers Portrait with Flair and Words of Wisdom
Alumna Delivers Portrait with Flair and Words of Wisdom

The Aiglon College Board of Directors recently commissioned Aiglon alumna Ivana Okereke (Chantecler, 1984) to paint former Headmaster and Executive Director of almost two decades, Richard McDonald. The painting has now been unveiled and mounted in Forbes House, home to numerous other portraits of Aiglon leaders. 

Since Ivana studied at Aiglon whilst Richard’s predecessor, Philip Parsons, was headmaster, she met with Richard in person to ensure the result was a faithful representation. She highlights, “It was a great honour to be chosen to paint a portrait of Richard McDonald, as a symbol of his legacy as headmaster at Aiglon. I am proud to be a graduate from Aiglon as Aiglon has had a huge part in shaping my life and career and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know Richard, who is a brilliant man and a visionary educator.”

Ivana has always been enraptured with art, commenting, “I do not remember a time when I didn’t draw and paint.” Her love of art is innate, and she comes from a lineage of artists. Nevertheless she did not become an artist overnight. She explored history and law, and later jewellery design, before a significant life-threatening event transfigured her perspective and brought her to the realisation that “life is too precious to be doing something that I wasn't passionate about […] Life is simply too short not to follow one's art.” 

Painting for Ivana is like meditation, and a critical element in securing the holistic balance of body, mind and spirit instilled at Aiglon. Her relationship with art at Aiglon deepened further, where she was inspired by her teachers, treasured painting outdoors in nature and developed a greater admiration of and respect for the local nature. Her time left a lasting imprint: “Aiglon has taught me many fundamental tools to be able to navigate life with a positive attitude.”    

Ivana has artfully woven visual clues into the piece that hint at Richard’s unique identity and story: the musical cufflinks denoting his love for music (he is an avid saxophonist); the floral cushion signifying his concern for nature (Richard currently serves on the board of the Villars Institute) and the books that frame him reflecting his links to academia.

At their meeting Ivana created oil colour studies in order to first experiment with colour selection and an attempt at seizing Richards likeness, and took many reference photos as part of her research process. Her cherished materials of choice for this piece - oil paint on a Belgian linen surface - were favoured for their enduring quality, vibrancy and texture.     

Exploiting traditional painting methods to reach original results is Ivana’s forte. With the “fat over lean” principle in mind, she observes the logical sequence of blocking-in, underpainting, layering and glazing towards a rich and robust final artwork. In studying other works by Ivana it is impossible to ignore the warm glow that emanates thanks to the colour palette, along with the modern twist, often in her embrace of nature.  

Ivana’s experience can be applied in many fields, and she offers words of wisdom for current students: “Pursue the path that aligns with your true passion. Stay committed. View failures as opportunities for growth. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small.”  

As Richard’s portrait joins the collection in Forbes House, the school is thankful for its talented community of contributing artists. Norman Perryman (staff, 1966-1973) has also played a key role in developing Aiglon’s appreciation for portraiture with paintings of Philip Parsons, Bibi Parsons, Lady Forbes, John Corlette, and others, displayed around campus. Through these paintings and the unique stories behind them Aiglon is able to honour and preserve its heritage for future generations.

Find out more about Ivana on instagram @ivanaoart 



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