As an artist inspired by the day-to-day goings-on of public space, Christabel Forbes found a wealth of new inspiration when on residency in India. Part of the Royal Drawing School and International Institute of Fine Arts programme that selected four artists for the residency in Modinagar, a small village near New Delhi, Christabel looked to soak up the atmosphere.
“My experience in India was full of life!” she says. “Every day would be a new experience with new friends and stories to tell. Being able to sketch on the street was a big novelty, and people were curious to know what I was doing. I took away so much culture, connecting with the community and sharing my love for drawing, which is still being used to capture these memories."
Christabel says she collects information for a drawing by sketching outside to capture the scenery before working on the final piece from a studio. She uses mixed media including oil pastels, oil, pencil, colour pencils, coloured pen and watercolour, preferring to experiment with materials according to the work, and is inspired by Matisse. “His way of depicting space with colour has helped me push my drawings into new media and experiment more. I also like Gauguin for his colour palette and Vuillard’s mark making.”
For her residency, Christabel was drawn to busy places of congregation. “I would often go drawing on the busy streets and tried to find a space to blend in. I found the community was very happy for me to draw within their space, settling at a doorstep or by a tea stand to observe. The daily activities that I was most drawn to were markets, the place people would gather to work and socialise. Locals would often start noticing me, come and talk, ask for a portrait, give you offerings, invitations to welcome their guest, and of course lots of chai tea!”
“My style is a combination of patterns and narrative, so after the residency my work has really benefited from the busy Indian scenes and its warm, bright colours,” she summarises.
The work is part of Turmeric, an exhibition at the Daniel Raphael Gallery also featuring Lottie Stoddart, Tyga Helme and Matthew Cunningham, who took part in the residency alongside Christabel. The show is on from 20 June – 10 July.