If you take at a look at my social media it is immediately clear I am of the #selfie generation. The photo album on my phone is full of pictures of myself, many taken within the same few minutes as I try to get the perfect angle, perfect lighting and the perfect pout and pose.

This left me wholly unprepared for the moment I saw a portrait of myself after sitting for an hour and a half to be painted.

Julia Sterland is a figurative painter currently exhibiting a selection of work at the Reel Cinema in Borehamwood. She explains: “I paint from what I see. I believe a painting should speak for itself. I find there is such a wealth of colour, form, line and tone in the world around me that I do not need to look further.

“I have painted all my life but trained in classical painting in 2000 with a wonderful artist called Zohar in North London. Since then I continue to paint both classically and in a looser style and particularly at the moment enjoy live portraiture at events of all sorts, which combines painting portraits, entertaining, and flying the figurative flag; because I cannot then control the environment it usually leads to good paintings.

“I still do a lot of live portraiture in oil which is fairly unusual now, I believe children as well as adults are wanting to return to this.”

The attention we received from those visiting the cinema while she painted me showed that people certainly are still fascinated. Almost everybody coming and going from the cinema stopped in awe and then took the time to look at Julia’s work adorning the walls.

People who, I shamelessly assume, would not take the time to visit the National Gallery, where Julia often goes to paint, but thoroughly enjoyed those few moments of Julia’s work. Children in particular stopped in awe until being dragged away by their parents.

Julia estimated that the painting would take just over an hour, as a child I was continuously praised by hairdressers and face painters for my ability to sit still, so as an adult, I was positive I would be fine.

The first hour passed quite easily, facing slightly to the side of Julia at a blank wall I snatched glances to her palette, amazed at how assertively she dipped her paint brush in various shades before confidently placing her created colour on the canvas.

Much to my surprise my mind wondered, interrupted from time to time by hushed comments of amazement at such talent, or children getting just a little bit too close to look at the work and at myself, until somebody behind me said it had been just under an hour. I would just have easily believed it had been five minutes.

The last half hour, however, was a slight struggle and I began swapping my crossed legs repeatedly to avoid any numbness. I eventually found comfort again in having both legs tucked side by side beneath me, moments before Julia tells me that she thinks that was it; it is finished.

I stand up and cautiously make my way round to the other side of the easel and look at myself – and it was very much me. Julia looks at me with nervous anticipation.

“I look so stern” I remark, but I know that this is spot on. I am often told to smile in photos when I thought I already was, as my natural face is a frown, in fact I have even been told I frown in my sleep. So, as I said, the painting was very much me and I did not expect the feeling it would create.

Photographs capture moments, but paintings capture character and it was simultaneously unsettling and satisfying to see the essence of me through the eyes of a stranger.

“It’s difficult to know when to stop” she says with a smile. “With traditional paintings, which are done layer by layer, it’s the opposite. You could stop too soon and it would look complete, but you would know.”

Julia does paintings of this kind as well, which take an average of one month to complete, as well as watercolours. A selection of these can all be seen at the Reel Cinema.

Julia can be found at the Alley Cat Bar on Denmark Street on the last Monday of every month for a night called Jazz and Games. Patrons play board games and listen to live music from Julia’s daughters while having their portrait painted.

If you would like to visit Julia’s studio in Shenley to see her full works, or have your own portrait painted, Julia warmly encourages people to get in touch via her website: juliasterland.com