Wilfrid Wood’s new book Drawings of my BF, is just that: a publication of adorable sketches of his boyfriend Theo made over the past few years. Featuring quick action shots that capture Theo’s lovely grin and sharp cheekbones with just a couple of lines, as well as new explorations into more detailed pastel pieces, the book is a tender account of their relationship via the medium of a sketch pad.
The couple first met when Wilfrid invited Theo to model for him via Grindr – something the artist and plasticine don was doing a lot of at that point. “Generally it worked amazingly well when me and the sitter had the same things in mind, either just art, or art plus shag,” Wilfrid tells It’s Nice That. “Problems arose either when I desperately fancied the model but they didn’t like me, or on rare occasions when they fancied me but I wasn’t willing to ‘get out my pencil’.”
Wilfrid’s drawings of Theo began “overly cautious and formal” but have become much freer as the couple’s relationship has grown. “I couldn’t repeatedly depict many people but Theo is extremely drawable. It’s generally harder to draw familiar people because you really know what they look like and are therefore more critical. But the great thing about having someone around who doesn’t mind being a model ‘on tap’ is that you can afford to take risks, to try out different approaches and media. With one-offs however, I need to be moderately confident it’s going to work so as not to waste their time.”
For Theo, modelling for Wilfrid has been an enjoyable experience. “It sounds strange to call myself a muse… all I have to do is read a book or lie on the sofa and he’ll start drawing me. It’s very natural and unselfconscious,” he says. “Often no words are said but we are still communicating and connecting, he is transferring the chemistry between us on to paper. The most demanding thing he ever gets me to do is a thirty minute smile.” Sometimes Theo will change things up a bit, by dressing up in a funny look or wearing nothing at all. The simplest things like a new haircut can inspire a whole new series of drawings. “It’s never boring even though we’ve done it so many times, somehow each drawing can still feel like a new experience,” says Theo. Wilfrid adds, “Actually our happiest times are when drawing. Serious fights only happen when we’re drunk and I can’t draw drunk.”
The book includes a few examples of a new series of portraits Wilfrid it currently working on, created using pastels. “Drawing with a pencil is like having a guitar, drawing with pastels is like having a band. A really solid pastel portrait makes contact with the viewer in a way a line drawing can’t,” Wilfrid says. “I was initially worried that pastels were only for grannies, but I think its possible to use them quite strongly, like oil paint.”
When selecting which of the hundreds of drawings to include in the book, Wilfrid was looking for images that possessed a variety of styles but all felt like Theo. “A single portrait (photographic, sculpted, or painted) shows a very limited aspect of a human being. With this book I’ve got someone in all sorts of moods and situations, it’s a more rounded view,” he says. “Sometimes, especially when I try too hard, a drawing just doesn’t bear a resemblance the sitter. Its really annoying! I don’t understand why one drawing works out better than another.”
For Theo his favourite images of himself are often the quick, spontaneous ones where he’s doing or wearing something silly or where Wilfrid draws him in 30 seconds. “I feel like I’ve said “that one is definitely my favourite” about 100 times. There are all sorts of aspects in each of his drawings to like, a colour or a line, the shape of my head, how big has he drawn my nostrils.” But for both Theo and Wilfrid, it’s a drawing’s ability to bring back the mood of the day, whether its relaxing in the garden with a book and a beer or larking about indoors, that makes the drawings so special, capturing and preserving a moment of their lives together.