Crazy Hair Brained Drawing Project – 24 hours of Self Portraits

A few weeks ago Rhiannon Rebecca Salisbury, Saskia Gall, and myself embarked on a project which at the time seemed a perfectly sane idea.

The idea came to us after visiting an exhibition of work by the highly accomplished draughtsman, and clearly inspiring artist, Guy Denning at the Signal Gallery (check out First Thursdays Londoners).

Mr Denning happens to have a large series of excellently executed self portrait drawings under his belt which we are pretty sure we heard him say were completed in 24hours.  If I’m not mistaken there are over 200 of them in total.  Jaw dropping stuff.  Pah! The challenge to have a go ourselves was irresistible.  It was to be an experiment, on many levels.

The ground rules were: no alcohol or any other substance to be consumed, 3 main breaks to eat, plus smaller ones to maintain sanity, and an hourly diary to track our thoughts and feelings as the challenge was after all not about producing any wondrous works of art but rather about the process of engaging in the activity and pushing ourselves beyond some sort of limit.

We managed to commandeer a large room at The Art Academy at half term.  A top secret affair which created an unwanted spiral of curiosity around us, but at this stage nothing was going to phase us.  A good hour was spent setting up the studio with easels, stacks of assorted mirrors which we lugged from the top floor and arranged around the studio, and a selection of materials all laid out and ready go.

Turns out that this little experiment was more than a little bit tougher than we imagined.   I can say from experience that there really is only so much looking at yourself in the mirror that is practicably possible. Sanity was tested.  As a result most of the drawings were done out of some sort of desperate delerium.

I’ve selected some of the drawings to show you below.  Luckily (or maybe unfortunately) they managed to escape incineration through persuasion from the girls.  I finally plucked up the courage to unwrap them yesterday for the first time weeks later and look at them from a recuperated perspective.

In retrospect, it was a totally silly thing to do, but definitely one of those things that would be forever regretted if we hadn’t done it.  Even though there were no life changing realisations or artistic enlightenment, I would not take back the experience for one minute as it did provide us plenty of laughs (mainly frenzied manic ones at ourselves), and also an insight to our limitations as artists, which apparently are there in abundance.  The sky is the limit and all that, but it turns out that even the sky has a limit.

There is something to be said for pushing oneself out of the comfort zone in order to achieve anything of value, but some hair brained ideas are just hair brained ideas.  Thank you Guy Denning for the inspiration but I am finding it difficult to believe that you really did all those in 24hours . . . . . . nobody can be that good damn it!

I’d really love to hear anyone and everyone’s thoughts, especially if you have carried out any similar challenge or have something to say about the self portrait in general.  Please leave me your comments!

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