This series of drawings was made at an artist residency hosted by Messors in southern Italy during June and July 2016. Messors runs art and culture restoration workshops based in a wonderful old farmhouse, or masseria. This was my third visit.
You can’t go far in southern Italy without encountering an image of the Virgin Mary, and the masseria is no exception. She hangs in every bedroom and gazes calmly down at you from the chapel wall, wrapped in her cloak of blue. I had brought photocopies of a photo of my Mum aged 19: young, beautiful and gazing, as it were, into her future. That image of my Mum, and all the Virgin Mary paintings, got me thinking: what if Mary had felt like saying no? Did she ever regret her life? How would my Mum think now, if she were to look back to her 19 year-old self? Where are the reluctant saints?
I was travelling as light as possible, so I used simple materials – egg tempera I made myself, pencils, ballpoint pens and scraps of wrapping paper on drawing paper bought in the nearest town. I kept everything as pared down as possible, though the odd decorative flourish did manage to creep in. I often drew with a brush, or with my non-dominant hand, to keep the work fluid and light. My palette is the blue of the Virgin Mary’s cape, a touch of pink, and the red-browns of natural earth pigments.