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Mayor’s Blog – The Portrait Challenge

Mayor’s Blog – The Portrait Challenge

The Portrait Challenge Bridport

I can’t believe that I have spent much of the past few days obsessed by the Portrait Challenge Bridport. As a former designer, drawing was a big part of my skillset, but portraiture was way out of my experience and comfort zone. It actually took me a couple of days to pluck up the courage to sit in front of a mirror and attempt a self portrait. Indeed had it not been for some horrendous weather midweek keeping me indoors I suspect I would in all probability have found several ‘more important’ things to do.

Wednesday 19 August 2020 will go down as a date on my personal list of things I have achieved. It was on this day that I sat down in front of a mirror, a sheet of A4 cartridge paper in front of me and a 2B pencil in my hand to produce my self portrait. I sat looking at myself for several minutes trying to make sense of the proportions of my head and the relative positions of my eyes, ears, nose and mouth before starting to draw. Once I started I found myself totally absorbed adding little details of my head I had never been aware of. For example, my right eye is pretty much horizontal but my left has a distinct lean to the it. You can judge the end result for yourself on the right.

Now I am one of those people who dislikes having my photograph taken which is why I am usually to be found behind the camera and not in front of it. So it came as a bit of a shock to find out that whilst I had been drawing, my wife Anne was upstairs in her small studio working on an acrylic portrait of me in my Mayoral Chain. She had been using the photograph taken of me that you see at the head my Blogs, but had reached a point where she needed me to sit for her in order to fully complete it. Three sittings later and her portrait was complete and the spectacular end result can be seen below.

What encouraged both of us to have a go at producing a portrait was seeing them gradually springing up in windows across the town. On Saturday morning we walked into town me laden with my camera and Anne with a shopping bag. Just around the corner from our home we spotted this wonderful display of portraits on a garden gate.

The following are but a few of the portraits I spotted in windows across the town.

Last but by no means least is the drawing installation at the Bridport Bus Station which is getting quite a reaction from passers by! The drawings are of bus drivers from England and around the world created by Seafair artists Sally Lemsford and Angie Porter. They include portraits of bus drivers who have died from COVID-19 and drivers who continue to put themselves at risk everyday to ensure bus services remain during this time. The quotes are from interviews with the bus drivers and articles about the current situation. The artwork was created by using locally burnt charcoal from Eggardon hill and will gradually fade and disappear over the next fortnight.

The Portrait Challenge initiative is championed by Bridport Rights Respecting Town – equal rights = we’re all equal, right?  and the Lyric Theatre, with additional support from Bridport Museum, Magna Housing, Bridport Open Studios and Bridport Contemporary Gallery as well as other supporters. The aim is to make visible the many, many faces of Bridport (town and villages) and celebrate all our different identities turning the town into an art gallery – shop windows, home windows, bus stops etc etc

Sat 29 August 10 – 2 Local artists are doing pop up portrait drawing sessions on Bridport Arts Centre forecourt – turn up and have a portrait done and do one yourself!

What an inspiring experience the Portrait Challenge has been for me and another fine example of what a talented and creative town we live in. I have discovered a small talent in need of much practise and that is what, having overcome my initial fear, I fully intend to do. And that is what I encourage as many people as possible to do – just give it a go and you will amaze yourself.

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