It has been a great pleasure to once again spend some time back in Luxor away from the hectic pace of London life, to make some new portrait drawings of friends while drinking endless cups of mint tea. The majority of portraits made during this stay are of people who have sat for me before, some many times. I feel that the portraits have become less formal over time and that these most recent portraits show the warmth and friendship that has grown over the last few years.
Mahmoud has been one of my most patient of models. He has sat for many drawings and paintings and seems to enjoy the whole process. He sits so wonderfully still, if only I could get him to sit for a few of my portrait courses here in London. It seems as if this most recent portrait captures his anxiety and worries of life in Luxor since the revolution.
Young Omnea was my youngest sitter during my first visit back in 2006. Although a boisterous five year old, she gladly entered into the spirit of things, (with the help of a little chocolate) and sat for her first drawing. Her second portrait made during the same visit was a small oil study, although this time she was fast asleep. During each of my visits Omnea has always been willing to sit once more.
Now growing up quickly this newest portrait began with her unraveling her plaits and revealing her beautiful hair. It probably won’t be too long now before before I visit and her hair will be covered.
It was touching when towards the end of this most recent portrait, she tugged my arm and saying wait a minute, dashed off. She soon returned carrying our very first portrait that I had framed and given to her. She then compared the two drawings and with a mix of beginners Arabic and English made it clear that she preferred our first efforts!
This is the second drawing of my friend Raouf. He has a wonderful face to draw, strong Egyptian features yet albino in colouring. During our first portrait he sat outside his shop, watching the world go by while the locals were greatly amused at my drawing him, peering over my shoulder watching every pencil stroke. This new portrait was made in his shop under very harsh electric lighting. Although I have visited many times, this time I found a sadness about the place as everything was covered in dust and had a forgotten air about it. Since the revolution he has had very few customers and he hadn’t had anyone visit for weeks before we went in.
While being so immersed in this culture it is wonderful to be able to take the time to slow down and to appreciate and enjoy the simple things that we either take for granted, or are too busy to slow down to notice in the west. Be it the quality of light, the sounds and smells, or the call to prayer. But it is the time that people make for each other that makes it so special.
Shukran to Mahmoud, Naema, Omnea, Raouf, Sahar, Mohammed and little Hana for your patience once again, for sitting so stoically and I hope to be with you all again very soon… InshaAllah.
Early in 2012 two new exhibitions of work inspired by Egypt will be opening in London. In January ‘Luxor – People and Places’ at the Petrie Museum, UCL and in February ‘Faces of Egypt’ at Putney School of Art and Design. More details to follow soon.