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Wilfrid Wood and Saaba by Wilfrid Wood
4th July 2018

Wilfrid Wood: Drawing People

- written by Laura

Based in London’s Hackney Wick, Wilfrid Wood sculpts faces from plasticine. From Justin Bieber to David Bowie, no-one is too famous for Wilfrid’s satirical contortions, and no-one too good-looking to be taken down a peg. But for a new exhibition opening this weekend, Wilfrid has leant his finely honed observation skills to a different medium – drawing.

Cutting his teeth making models for Spitting Image, it’s unsurprising that Wilfrid’s plasticine creations demonstrate an acerbic wit that must make even the most emotionally secure wince. From Paul McCartney’s mouth puckered like an anus to Harry Redknapp’s cavernously sunken eyes, Wilfrid’s take on the human face is both cutting and charming – a fact that has led to commissions from the likes of The New Yorker, Vice and Colette.

Showing a more tender side, his drawings – all done from life – are intimate snapshots of some of the people he’s met. A new exhibition, called Drawing People, opens on Friday 6 July at Space Gallery in Hackney. Ahead of the show we caught up with Wilfrid to chat switching to sketching, drawing from life and craving approval.
Mr Bingo by Wilfrid Wood
What sort of person makes a good subject for drawing? Does having distinctive features and/or a big personality help? 

I’ll draw anyone. Sometimes a very dull looking person walks through the door, and I think ‘what the hell can I do with that?’ But mysteriously I end up with a good drawing. Other times someone spectacular sits for me, and I do a crap drawing. Its impossible to pre-judge. Obviously, distinctive features like huge noses or dramatic monobrows are tasty material, but if someone has very delicate or evenly proportioned features then it's my job to tease them into an interesting portrait. There are always small facial quirks to exaggerate. I’m like the opposite of a plastic surgeon.

Does it matter to you if people like the artwork that you create of them?

Unfortunately yes. I was at a talk by the artist Maggie Hambling the other day, and I nervously asked (she’s quite intimidating) whether I should care what the model thinks of my drawing. She replied ‘My advice to you, young man, (I’m 49 and she’s 72) is that you can’t take any notice of what the model thinks, otherwise you will be inhibited.’ I try to take that advice but in my heart, I crave approval.

What difference does it make when the person you are drawing is sat in front of you compared to making a piece of work based on a photograph? 

I only draw people from real life. Using photographs means you have more time and perhaps feel more able to take liberties, but I love the intense collaborative experience of sitting close to someone and staring at them intensely for an hour. It's almost like a piece of theatre. I have to concentrate 100%. The model is generously giving me their time and I strive to do the best drawing I can. Its a knife edge live performance and often I fail. Drawing from photographs is for sissies.
Carmen by Wilfrid Wood
What do you like most about drawing? 

I love the process where someone looks at something, their brain processes the information then sends messages down their arm to their fingers in an attempt to fix the image on paper. Of course, information gets mangled along the way so the form will have unique and weird characteristics. 

Drawing as a primal thing like singing. It's sensual and immediate. You don’t need any fancy equipment; anyone can do it. I imagine sustained drawing produces brain waves akin to meditation, a deep and exciting concentration. 

Tell us a little about Drawings of People – who are the drawings of? Have the drawings been made over a certain period of time? 

It's my first flat show. All the drawings are an A1 size and have been done this year. Drawing big but trying hard to keep things in proportion produces strange results. 

Initially, I drew studs from Grindr, but I got a boyfriend, so I had to put a lid on it. Now my models are mainly friends, people from Instagram and word of mouth enthusiasts.

You have lots of other people’s drawing on your studio walls. Can you tell us a little about why you collect them – I’m pretty sure I remember you saying that you buy a lot off of eBay? 

Drawings are my favourite art form. They’re lovely modest things that often reveal more about the artist than flashy paintings or cumbersome sculptures. I’m trying to cut down on buying art though, I’ve got too much already. Occasionally I can’t resist something from Instagram. I’d love to be a drawings buyer for a rich patron with an empty stately home.

If you’re that rich patron, or just a curious spectator, find out more about the exhibition here.
Candice by Wilfrid Wood
Contact:

Studio 3
De Beauvoir Block
92 De Beauvoir Road
London
N1 4EN
UK

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