HowzArt is a project set up in partnership with artist Darren Baker to involve schoolchildren in the Bicentenary celebrations.
The idea for art classes at Lord’s came about when Darren, who was the official artist for the 2012 London Olympics and is the official Professional Footballers Association artist, approached MCC about donating his time to support the new Community Outreach Programme at Lord’s with HowzArt.
As part of MCC's Community Outreach Programme, the MCC Museum collaborated with Darren to launch the competition for schoolchildren in the Tri-borough areas of Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea.
HowzArt celebrated 200 years of Lord's by creating a mural on the back of the Compton Stand, with the help from those schoolchildren.
I caught up with Darren at his family home to discuss his art, painting the Queen and work with MCC.
Your drawings are unbelievable, utterly mind blowing in their realism. The minute detail and clarity leads me to describe your work as hyper photographic realism. I don’t want to label it, but perhaps you can?
I describe my style as classical realism, in that I take influences from the old masters whilst interpreting modern subjects with my own detailed technique of drawing and painting. I find photographs a bit flat. I like to make my pictures convincing, but not in the way a photograph is.
Tell me a bit about this preparatory painting of the Queen hanging in your games room. It’s unfinished, which intrigues me.
It’s funny when people see my work in progress, they say 'can I buy it now?' This is the original sketch from life that I based the final painting on. You can see I use burnt umber and a bit of sepia as a foundation. My technique is very traditional in that old masters approached underpainting in this way.
I got a cup of tea and Royal water
I worked out the composition about a month before I had actually seen the space. I spent a few hours setting up the drawing room before the Queen arrived only to change it again when she got there – I had to place her on a podium otherwise there would have been too much curtain and not enough Queen! I had an hour sitting with the Queen, I got a cup of tea and Royal water, which was nice. I then spent two hours working on the portrait back in my studio from sketches and photographs.
Tell me more about the process involved in creating these black and white drawings leaning against the wall in your studio.
I work from photographs and life. I get sent a lot of photographs by clients wanting portraits of their children, dogs, horses, falcons, cars etc. There is a big market in Dubai!
It’s hard to articulate how I transfer photos to drawings, the whole process maybe takes a month. If I’m drawing a portrait I always start with the head and then work my way from left to right so as not to smudge the graphite. I apply up to ten layers of carbon to get that intensity. The paper I use is from a special factory in France. I use a lot of hair spray (as a fixative) not for my hair!
You cover such a wide range of subjects in your work! What do you draw for yourself?
I produce numerous hand studies. Hands reveal so much about human characteristics, we reach out with them, express ourselves with them. I’m fascinated by hands. I think hands can sometimes say more about a person than their face.
You have worked widely within the realm of sports: you were BT Olympic Artist for London 2012 and are the official Professional Footballers' Association Artist. Tell me a bit about your links with sport and the sportsmen you have depicted?
I’m a big sports fan and grew up watching football with my dad who played Sunday League. I’m a Manchester United fan! I approached the Football Association, who invest heavily in art, and I’ve been their official resident artist since. Sadly I can’t play football as I risk breaking my arm. I already have to go to a physician because after eight hours of holding a pencil it has quite a work out!
As the BT Olympic Artist I had an hour sitting with Olympians and Paralympians such as Oscar Pistorius and Mo Farah.
Thank you for giving your time to work with MCC Community and Outreach Programme. I was blown away by the talent of children as young as six who created innovative works of art inspired by the Ground here at Lord’s and MCC’s varied collection of paintings, photographs and textiles How did you find the experience?
It was a pleasure working with the schools and children and I was really impressed with their entries. With the mural I have attempted to draw focus to their art whilst unifying the image with colours of Lord’s and MCC and universal imagery of cricket in various styles and mediums.
Illustrating children’s books! My new book Albert the Handy Dog is out now!