Monday, April 19, 2010

Interview with presenter Isabel Fiadeiro

Isabel Fiadeiro, a painter and gallery owner in Nouakchott, has lived in Mauritania since 2003. I often find extremely difficult to break the ice with a person I'm going to sketch but she has the ability to make a special connection with her subjects, and her art reflects that. Her work also offers a unique visual document of everyday life in West African countries. I'm always inspired by the human dimension of her art and its powerful visual storytelling. I look forward to learning more from Isabel at the Symposium.

Sidi Mohammed asked for a sketch

Ben's donkey and palm trees

Touareg artisans

Making tea

What role does sketching play in your work as a painter? Do you use your sketches as the basis for your art?
It's rare that I use any of my sketches as a departure point for a painting. I see my sketchbooks as an end in themselves, they work as visual journals of the interest I have in my surroundings. I do a lot of portrait sketches and enter in close relation through the drawings with people I had not know just a few minutes before. On the other hand my portrait paintings are becoming more and more like sketches, unfinished, where the whole process of work, can be seen and doesn't get covered by the last layers of paint.

The sketches work also as a tool to develop my skills. A year after I started sketching, a look at my first sketchbook made me realize how my drawing had improved. I still get days where sketching will just flow and others where it seems to be a struggle. As a figurative painter I find that sketching is essential in your practice and some times I wish I had started earlier.

What are your tools and favorite subjects?
On my sketchbooks I rather use pilot G-TEC- C4, a great pen with a 0.4 nib and a small watercolor box. If I have the time I rather work directly with a thin brush in watercolor. I found the Japanese water brushes last year when I visited Lisbon and they're now part of my sketching gear.

For my paintings I have been using mainly acrylics as my studio is in my flat and the smells of turpentine and oils it's to strong for me to live with. I use paper most of the time as a support.

My favorite subject is the human being. I love sketching people at work or at leisure or actually posing. In Mauritania I started landscape paintings, there's something in the desert landscape that's special and makes you aware of how insignificant one is.

What's your experience urban sketching with local artists in Nouakchott?
The first time only five of us got together and some other artists showed up as we were finishing the session. Sidi Yahyia, a first generation painter had brought little stools from his ''painting school for children'' and we drew around our neighborhood that is a very quiet place. For the next sketchcrawl, we opened it up to the public and, in a extremely hot day with a sand storm going on, I was surprise to see all artists joining in and plenty of young couples with children. The fishing harbor was a great location choice as it was the coolest place in Nouakchott. I only regret not haven taken extra paper and pencils for the young boys in the harbor beach that wanted to join us.

Drawing with others opens up new ways of approaching the subject, new techniques and sharing of information plus the little extra opportunity to held someone else sketches in your hand at the end of the day it also helps develop your critique sense.

What are you looking forward about the Symposium?
I'm looking forward to share with participants my experience of using sketching as a way of communicating with people. People are fascinated by drawing and they will approach you, surround you and peep over your shoulder. Instead of finding it disturbing, that it can be! I find worse a camera. I turn it into a communicating tool, getting people to feel attached and part of my drawing, creating bonds that will help me in the future and that will allow me to sketch in places where if you were to try and take a picture you would be denied access.

Being used to the desert in Mauritania, it's hard for me to imagine what it will be like to sketch in Portland!

• Isabel's blog.
• Isabel's art on flickr.

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