Monday, June 11, 2012

Plying my trade at Opsail

This past weekend was spent down in Norfolk for the big Opsail event, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.  I had promised to attend months ago, portraying a portrait artist/miniaturist of that era.  Both days I was there with Nicole, who was demonstrating shoemaking, while Samantha was only able to join us on Sunday.

Prior to the event, I didn't really know what to expect, and had the idea that I'd simply end up talking to people about artists and miniatures during the early 19th century, but that otherwise I'd be able to wander around and visit the tall ships and fort and whatnot.

To my great surprise and delight, people were genuinely interesting in my drawing, and, most specifically, in having me draw them.  I ended up doing a fairly brisk business with the small charcoal portraits, and aside from food breaks I did almost nothing but draw portraits straight the entire weekend.  It was definitely different to be at an event in a historical vendor type of mode as opposed to strict living history, but I must say I quite enjoyed it (even though I never did get to see all the ships). 

Apparently when I draw I look rather serious... I guess that must just be my 'concentrating' face, since I was actually really happy to be doing art again!

Naturally, I didn't get pictures of all the drawings I did for people, but I did get a quick snap of the sketch I did of the scrimshaw artist/sutler who was set up just a few tents down from me and one of Samantha.


  1. I've noticed people always want to buy homemade things, especially when they see you creating it before their eyes. I too am the same way. And your drawings are beautiful.

  2. How do you *do* that?! I mean, yeah, I know how well you draw, but those really are good, especially considering how short of an amount of time it took you to do them. Serious kudos :)

  3. Your drawings are amazing! And it looks like it was such a lovely event. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. What a cool display! And I spy a familiar face. :)

  5. *O* What a nice day and draws!

  6. Gwendolyn - I've always admired your drawings here and on DeviantArt. I'd love to be able to do my own drawing at reenacting events, and you seem like the authority to ask for advice! Where can I find historically correct drawing pencils/charcoal? (I know watercolors are best, but I'm not as good at those yet :) ) I'd like to start off doing sketches like the portraits you showed here.

    Thanks and keep being awesome :)

    1. Alexa-

      Thank you! Drawing at reenacting events is a load of fun, and I certainly hope you'll give it a try too. When it comes to pencils, there are a few places which sell 18th cen appropriate(ish) ones. Jas. Townsend sells what they call a 'Mechanical Pencil' which works well, and you can insert your own graphite or charcoal sticks in it if you don't like what they sell (I don't). Colonial Williamsburg also sells decent looking pencils in their gift shops. As for charcoal, which is my personal favorite, you can either use plain sticks or a pencil with simple wood. Unfortunately, I haven't found a source for charcoal pencils with no writing on them, but many have very unobtrusive writing and to me it's not too awful to just use them anyway. After all, if the pencil is in your hand, no one can really see it anyway!

      Hope this helps a little! I'd love to see what sort of drawings you eventually do! :)