Born in Bolton, Michael Knowles studied at Sunderland College of Art. In 1985 he moved to Edinburgh to pursue a career as a portraitist and photographer. Between 1987-8 Knowles travelled across Britain as part of a project to paint Scottish poets and novelists whose work he enjoyed. This resulted in around twenty-eight portraits, including the likes of Edwin Morgan, Stewart Conn and Alasdair Gray. In painting his sitters in their own environment, using the natural light source, Knowles explores the tension between private and public aspects of the sitter’s identity.