Artquest and fashion drawing history

It was the Artquest ‘Social and political change’ salon on Thursday night – three hours of online meetup, which is quite a task for someone who tends to get up at 6:30, draw on a tablet for two hours and then do a full day’s work in front of a screen like I do.

The session featured enthusiastic speakers from Artquest itself, a presentation from Elizabeth Gleave of the Land Art Agency, and then two group feedback sessions.

Artquest is an Arts Council funded charity that forges connections between artists, and in this case there were around 15 of us, working across various practices, all self-identified as working on art for social or political change.

I hadn’t known exactly what to expect, but it turns out to be a peer mentoring set-up. Artquest is very keen on the benefits for artists of regular meetups, to discuss problems, share ideas and opportunities and feed back on one another’s progress.

I’m in two minds on whether or not I should continue. The first thing I noticed was that I was the only illustrator – everyone else’s artwork seems to either be heavily conceptual, either in visual, performance or plastic arts. They also seem to all be full time career artists, though of course it’s hard to know that for sure just from how they present themselves on their websites etc.

That’s not necessarily a reason not to carry on, but it did make me feel a bit out of place. I mean, I can make a strong argument that it’s my day job that feeds into the political and social change aspects of my work; and hey, I went to art school and have an MA to prove it, but still, I’m just not 100% sure this is for me.

The other thing is that it’s clearly a difficult task to put 15 people on a Zoom call together and immediately ask them to start sharing intimacies and insecurities. Artquest did really well at keeping energy high throughout, but who knows whether the group will cohere and grow any further.

Long story short – I joined with the hope it might encourage me to see new ways of weaving political and social activism into my work. I suppose it might achieve that aim. I wasn’t particularly looking for the support of a peer mentoring group, though I do believe the Artquest facilitators when they point out the various benefits. As always time is an issue. But I’ll stick with it for now and see where it goes.

Work on Satin and Tat (decidedly not a political work) is going well – I’m two thirds through page 78 and enjoying it greatly. Last week I was just finishing off page 76. Page 77 went smoothly too, so it feels like I’m on a roll, which makes a nice change from angsting over every detail.

I saw notice of this exhibition this week: Drawing on Style at the Gray MCA gallery in London. I’d never heard of this place, but apparently it is “the leading international art gallery in the specialist art field of original fashion illustration focusing on the original artworks by the 20th century masters and a small select field of contemporary masters.”

The show is only running until 26 Sept, however, so sadly I doubt I’m going to be able to make it up there. You can enjoy some of the pictures on the Guardian website, though.

Antonio Lopez, 1966
Robert Melendez, 1969.