Tanya Raabe in residency - Week 2

The Summit Portrayed! Where do I start? What a fantastic three days I've had, drawing and painting as many artists and studio managers from around the world who came to the summit.

I thought to myself, how should I start? So I began with capturing people and artists as they were making important decisions on how and where to hang their work in their individual exhibition spaces. There was a lot of movement and conversations going on, in and around the Project Ability gallery and in the exhibition spaces in the foyer of Trongate 103. As each studios artwork was revealed there were gasps of enjoyment, celebration and sharing of each other’s appreciation of their artworks. I wanted to capture in drawing the spontaneity of people's reactions and physicality in quick groups. To do this I thought my iPad would be the best medium as I moved around the gallery in my chair with my iPad on my lap. I wasn't looking for detail of individuals’ faces but I was looking for a sense of great interaction, movement and a looseness to depict identity. So I worked with an app called Sketchbook Pro. In it I used a thin pencil to draw fast line drawings. This gave me fast fluid drawings.

Then I noticed some of the artists who were waiting to hang their work were looking at me looking at them as I was drawing. Immediately I responded to this silent artistic engagement and started drawing in pen on small watercolour paper that I also had in my mobile art bag, head and shoulder portraits. Creating portraits that were of a more intimate nature. There was a real sense of artistry, engagement and exchange that needed no words, just a look and an expression between us meant we were connected as artists. The portrait standing pose was born!

By this time there was a real buzz going on, people were beginning to have all sorts of exchanges and this was a great time to introduce myself as the summit portrait Artist and to invite artists and studio managers to sit for their portrait during the three days.

The opening of the International Summit. I do love to capture a good opening speech! This was a great opening speech, perfect opportunity to draw a portrait of Elisabeth - Director of Project Ability – and Councillor Archie Graham in context with the audience of onlookers, delegates and artists who were all eager to get going in the art studios.

Very quickly, my evolving portrait began to become an installation of the faces and bodies of the #SummitPortrayed. iPad drawings were printed out and hung alongside some small intimate pen portraits. The iPad drawings were looked at with a sense of intrigue and wonderment about how they didn't look like computer generated images. People responded to these drawings with amazement at how quick I drew them and how I had captured the scene in such a short period of about 30 seconds per drawing! I think I surprised myself too on this one!

With the speeches done and the Summit officially open, my next job was to get into the thick of it and start making bigger portraits of the happenings and cultural and artistic exchanges that were beginning to happen in the studios. Armed with my easel, art trolley and artist’s assistant Celine, I positioned myself to portray the artists and studios talking about their artistry, their art and their cultural differences and indeed their cultural similarities. As it was quite dark because of the projection presentations, I decided to use black ink and an ink/eye dropper to portray Jonathan McKinstry and Consuelo Servan as they talked about their collaboration. A proven material and technique that gives me fast, spontaneous drawings that capture movement and expression.

But the darkness in the presentation area was just a bit too dark and I couldn't quite see enough of the speakers features so I decided to move myself, my easel and art trolley into the studio where the light streamed in directly on to the artists as they began to make their own work. Perfect subject matter for me to portray. So I began to paint!

Again there were so many tiny moments, treasures being revealed in artistic exchanges that bridged cultural, language and artistic barriers that I wanted to portray. Faces, expressions, concentrations, absorbed in creating artworks was all around me. I painted and drew portraits of many moments and interactions in the art studio.

Time to setup a portrait painting booth. I wanted to have a cultural and artistic exchange with the people who run the studios so I began by inviting the managers and art directors of the studios to sit for me whilst I painted their portrait. Each sitter was asked to tell me about their art studio/organisation and to tell me a little bit about themselves. As they began to tell me their stories I painted their portrait using a very loose style of painting with thin colours, overlapping the couloirs and building up tone and shade. I then applied ink with an eye dropper to give the finished piece a sense of expression. Each portrait would take about 20 minutes.

As I built up a series of portraits of different people the word was getting around and I eventually had a waiting list of sitters! People would come and watch and we would have many conversations about my approach to the portrait, the paint technique and ink drawing technique which was great.

So in response to this I thought it would be great if I painted a portrait of the artists painting portraits of me resulting in a true artistic and cultural exchange. This proved very popular too. I began ‘portraying you portraying me’ with Cameron Morgan. He created a portrait of me as I was putting my paints out ready to portray him. My portrait of him captures him doing his initial drawing for his portrait of me. We painted our portraits of each other and at the end we had an artistic critique of each other's work which was great fun. We shared points about each other’s paint techniques and Cameron describes as liking the "looseness" of my painting and I loved the way he captures my physicality with no compromise and the fact that both our paintings used loose paint and ink drawing.

These exchanges during portrait sittings continued with great skill and enthusiasm and I think were the highlight of my portrait making summit journey. There were lots of laughter and the art spoke larger than life.

My next blog will talk about portraying the summit on canvas. A panoramic triptych depicting the narrative and exchanges of the summit.

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