Wilfrid Wood sheds hilarious light on his latest portrait series

London-based portrait artist Wilfrid Wood cut his teeth as a “headbuilder” creating the grotesquely satirical heads for TV show Spitting Image, and since then has become best known for his sculpted portraits. Lately, he has been transferring his astute knack for capturing a person’s essence in plasticine and clay – see his 2016 Olympics portraits for reference – on to paper, with a new exhibition of his drawn portraits opening this week in London. People will display several years of work depicting friends, acquaintances and “curious individuals who get in contact via Instagram,” every drawing done from life with Wilfrid and the subject face-to-face for several hours.
His practice in drawn portraiture started off by “drawing horny men from Grindr but it got messy,” Wilfrid tells It’s Nice That, and so moved to Instagram, where he looks for interesting faces to portray. The artist says he gets lots of people messaging him to offer themselves as subjects, or to commission him. “Occasionally I’m talking to an interesting looking person at a party I’ll ask them,” he continues. “The other day I was walking down the street and a fantastic looking schoolboy with a huge afro passed me on the street. I very nearly stopped and asked if I could draw him but couldn’t quite summon the courage. When I got home I told my boyfriend and he said do NOT go round asking schoolboys back to your flat for a couple of hours so you can draw them. The voice of sanity.”
After many years of experience in portraiture, Wilfrid says he’s learned not to pre-judge who will be good to draw. “Sometimes a stunning fashion model walks through the door and I do a crap picture of them. Sometimes a mouldy old potato walks through the door and I do a drawing we both like. It’s best to just get on with it and see what emerges.” While drawing his subject, the artist says he gets to know his subject well but “not via words” because he can’t draw and talk at the same time – rather he gets to know their face and its idiosyncrasies intimately. “We usually have a cup of tea before we start and I try to listen to what they’re saying but I’m usually scanning their face thinking: ear, wonky nose, ear, angle, eye, nose again, ear, hair, nose, one eye smaller than the other, mouth, teeth, eyebrows etc.”

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