Two years ago, it was a lockdown Christmas and a very snowy start to 2021. I was drawing the Tudor Queens in my flat, which resulted in three five feet highly detailed drawings of Katharine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Catharine Parr. Using just pencil and biro on paper the drawings took hundreds of hours to complete and was the first time since my Portraits, twenty years ago, that I’ve had the opportunity to do such detailed art work.
I had been inspired by reading Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, and I’ve been captivated by the history of the Tudor era for as long as I can remember. Lockdown was an opportunity to get immersed in a meaty subject, and for me it was a deep dive into the lives of Henry VIII and his six wives.
Fast forward to Christmas 2022 and I had the great pleasure to visit Peterborough Cathedral and see where Katharine of Aragon is laid to rest.
It’s given me cause to reflect on the last two years as life gets back to normal after the pandemic. Although travel has been a bit limited, the queens have been on a journey. And their life stories have become another lens through which to view my experiences of 2020-2022.
In October 2021 my Tudor Queens were exhibited as part of IN-DECISION, an LAC Contemporary Arts show. In addition to the fragile original drawings, I exhibited three-meter fabric reproductions. With atmospheric back-lighting, these queens looked statuesque. The show was extremely well received in Norwich, it being our first art exhibition with a private view and no social-distancing or masks.
Related: Behind the Queens
In Spring 2021, the queens had their first outing, as two-metre reproductions at The Old Shoe Factory. This was a project week where I was able to work out how I wanted them to hang in the exhibition. The drawings reproduced on canvas with excellent results.
Piecing the Queens together
The original drawings were extremely fragile and I found that the pen and paper was discolouring even before I finished the full length portraits. Therefore, I scanned the drawings in sections and pieced them together digitally in order to have a way of reproducing the portraits in case the originals deteriorated too much.
Here we are, two winters ago in lockdown, drawing Katharine of Aragon over the course of December-March. She posed the challenge of drawing highly detailed jewellery, a pomegranate (which is her symbol) and a gable headdress. The pen work in this particular portrait was meticulous and her sleeves alone had around five layers of pen and pencil to achieve the texture of velvet.
As a new year is about to begin, it’s exciting to imagine everything that is possible once again. But it’s also good to reflect on this Queens project and celebrate everything that was achieved when life and travel was so limited.
I’d love to delve into and draw the rest of Henry VIII’s wives… maybe one day.
For now, it’s the Christmas hols and an opportunity to thank you for your support and following my art journey. Wishing you a healthy, happy and successful 2023 – from Natalie xx