Exploring through drawing

Chalk Up

“After being kitted out, the doors were unlocked and steps were revealed. With a slight sense of apprehension as I am clumsy we descended the steps to the tunnels. It was amazing. The day went quickly but all who came achieved some fantastic work. An atmospheric and beautiful place.” (Alison Trelfer)

“Helping Clare with the  drawing workshop at Fan Bay Deep Shelter was a privilege. To be in that extraordinary space for several hours and to begin to get a sense of what it would’ve been like to have spent time sheltering under there during air raids was quite moving. The space itself is so interesting to draw; it was exciting to see the many positive reactions that some  initially reluctant drawers had when they allowed themselves to begin to really look at the environment and start to make marks on the paper. It revealed something of and to themselves, which they had not experienced prior to this event. A very rewarding day!’ (Petra Matthews Crow)

Visitors walking along the White Cliffs on Thursday 30 July unexpectedly found themselves exploring the tunnels in the recently uncovered Fan Bay Deep Shelter not by taking the more usual guided tour but through drawing. Almost all the participants who stumbled across the Walk and Draw event were up for the challenge of rediscovering the pleasure of drawing and its power as a means of closely observing and exploring space.

The inspiration for the Walk and Draw event was an ink and wash drawing by commissioned war artist Anthony Gross in 1941. Participants were encouraged to do two drawings in response – a warm-up drawing lasting no longer than 5 minutes and a longer drawing of about 20 minutes. Despite the cool, damp atmosphere in the tunnels, many chose to spend much longer on their second drawing.

“I think some people were disappointed that they weren’t able to fully explore the tunnels on foot, but they found a different kind of engagement through their drawings. I could see that many of the participants were surprised by the quality of their own drawings and was delighted that quite a few chose to keep them and take them back home.

I would particularly like to thank the Gareth Wiltshire from the National Trust and the volunteers and staff who did a great job of recruiting participants let alone getting the tables and chairs down the 125 steps. A big thank you too to Petra and Ally without whose help it would have been fairly chaotic and to Sebastian Edge for the photos.” (Clare Smith)

The event was in partnership with the National Trust and part of the Up On The Downs Big Summer Festival.