Many of us stuck in isolation have been searching for new ways to dream and imagine beyond the four confining walls of our strange new reality – and the popularity of recent shows like Grayson’s Art Club and Sky Portrait Artist Of The Week demonstrate that there are legions of people all eager to roll up their sleeves and use this time to get involved in something artistic. A creative city like Brighton was always going to excel in these kinds of endeavours. SOURCE examines a few local lockdown art projects.
Nick Sayers, whose pinhole camera project we featured back in 2015, has recently been producing hand-drawn doorstep portraits (from a safe social distance). Initially starting out as a personal project on his own street in Portslade, it has now been expanded into the local area, offering his sitters a chance to interact with this friendly local artist – to, quite literally, be ‘seen’. Sayers has been offering portrait sittings at a nominal fee, which includes a donation to NHS charities.
JJ Waller, a well known local photographer responsible for several bestselling and popular books documenting the quirky characters and scenes in the city, has also started his own lockdown portrait project, photographing people seen through windows and doors (including the above portrait of our very own SOURCE contributor Paul Stewart). The series is already building a fascinating visual record of this strange moment in our lives. Waller invites prospective future participants in this project to contact him via his website.
Local creative organisations, meanwhile, have been forced to adapt to new and unusual circumstances by running and promoting their businesses along different lines. Draw Brighton, usually based at New England House, has been unable to offer, in person, their customary life drawing classes and art teaching sessions. In their absence a successful Patreon page now grants backers access to studio quality reference images to produce portraits and figure drawings. Draw are running Zoom life classes too, plus an online ‘portrait club’ for which participants dial in, then break off into small groups and take turns to draw one another. Head tutor Jake Spicer and his friends, like many professional artists, are embracing a very challenging long-term future with incredible positivity, creating arguably more readily accessible, fun drawing opportunities than ever before.
Local illustration agents AgencyRush have come together with their artists to produce a series of uplifting images based on ‘Hope’ and ‘Love’. The Brighton-based business is offering free downloads of their image templates (to design your own response to their brief), or colour-in versions of the existing artists’ work – an ideal project for both adults and children in lockdown.
Meanwhile Brighton Digital Festival is welcoming submissions to its ‘From Home’ display. Citizens in lockdown are invited to create short video pieces to document any aspect of their lives during this crisis. Highlights will be shared online, and a selection will be aired as part of a video installation later in the year when the festival goes live.
Although Brighton Festival may have been cancelled this year, it’s worth knowing that the ‘Festival at Home’ continues through the next fortnight, bringing a range of events to your computer screen. The Fringe also have a range of online performances accessible through their website, including live theatre, Zoom workshops and virtual exhibitions. One way or another, Brighton seems to be rising to the challenge of remaining creative and engaged in this crisis.