Ways With Words Literary Festival 2013
I have just finished my seventh year as Artist In Residence at ‘Ways With Words’ at Dartington Hall in South Devon.
The annual event, now in its 22nd year, is a brilliant celebration of the world of books and ideas.
It takes place in the beautiful setting of a medieval manor with its courtyard, great hall and stunning landscaped gardens – all in all an inspirational setting.
I have always loved the challenge of drawing and painting people and even more so as a ‘quick sketch’. Being able to do this in such a wonderful setting as Dartington, as I listen to the variety of interesting writers and thinkers, is always an inspiration.
This year I have completed 28 drawings including Tony Hawks, Darcey Bussell, who inspired a drawing of her legs and amazing black and white polka dot stiletto heels and then a drawing of her head…they were not connected! Douglas Hurd, Sandi Toksvig, a challenging drawing when I was not laughing, who was delighted with her portrait which she then signed. Paddy Ashdown, Roy Hattersley, Carol Ann Duffy, a lovely evening of poetry, some very funny and some very poignant, with music by John Sampson who was playing period instruments including a crumhorn and Chinese silken gourd. Steve Jones, Stuart Maconie, again a very amusing story of 20th century soundtracks, Ann Widecombe, who gave a confident and forthright talk about her life, Cerys Matthews encouraging us all, young and old, to join in with her traditional family songs from around the world, plus various members of the audience and some pen and wash sketches of the architecture.
I invariably occupy the same place in The Great Hall, perched on my cushion (necessary for 10 days of sitting) on the side benches. From here I can see the speakers who are either at the lectern or being interviewed on the nearby ‘stage’- also 90% of the audience – who are very often more interesting to draw and especially observe!
Before I start a drawing, I will understand the basic shapes and characteristics of the face, body language and stance. Then I ‘go for it’! Each drawing takes about 45 minutes and is only A4 in size, quite challenging to draw quickly in small scale, especially as there can be so much detail in a portrait.
I work on cartridge paper and use different grades of pencil starting with 2H and progressing to B. Any softer and the drawing will smudge, or on a NOT surface watercolour paper when I will lay washes over a pencil or pen sketch. Sometimes I will do just the head and sometimes the whole figure. That decision will always depend on the feature or body language. It is always fascinating to watch how movement and facial expression is so important when reading or talking. By listening, my drawings are always helped when the speaker is animated and totally confident in their presentation.
Not all the drawings survive…quite a lot are sold during the festival, others end up in the bin and the rest go in my portfolio of famous and not so famous faces I have drawn. My derrière has now recovered and I am all ready for the festival again next year!
I hope to see you soon.