Brighton artist embarks on Zoom portrait virtual world tour

Brighton artist Nick Sayers has set out on a Covid-19 art project to draw live portraits of people in countries around the world, via Zoom video chat, while discussing life during the pandemic – a global continuation of the local project he carried out during lockdown in which he drew neighbours on his street in real life, sitting two metres away from them.

Wednesday, 6th January 2021, 11:00 am
Nick Sayers
Nick Sayers

Through this new phase of the project, he aims to examine and compare how the pandemic is affecting people around the world, and how their societies and governments are coping.

Conversation is a key aspect of the encounters, Nick says. He draws the portraits using a ballpoint pen on art paper while he chats with his sitter. Sessions last around two hours. He then writes up a summary of their conversation, checks this with them and posts the text together with his drawings to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. People can see images from the project and read about the conversations by following the #NickDrawsNationals hashtag.

“I’ve compiled a list of almost 200 countries,” says Nick, “In the first instance I’ve been working through the foreign contacts and friends I’ve made over the last few years. I’ve been lucky to have travelled internationally with my science-inspired art projects. Since the pandemic this is no longer possible, and the crisis has made me reconsider the environmental impact of flying. This project allows me to travel vicariously and still meet with people around the globe while in lockdown. I’ve set myself loose boundaries about drawing people in what they consider their home country. I wanted to avoid just drawing friends from other nations living in England or British immigrants abroad. Of course, modern life isn’t quite that simple: people move from country to country, either by choice or compelled by political or financial pressures. I’ve already drawn a Palestinian who grew up in the Emirates but now lives in Canada and an Israeli-born American.”

“As the project has progressed, I’ve been reaching out to people in countries where I don’t have contacts. I’ll be following friends of friends, social media links, foreign travel message boards, twinned schools, foreign embassies etc. I like the idea of Six Degrees Of Separation: we live in a very interconnected world, and I’m hoping to reach more obscure places around the globe through a series of linked connections.”

Nick is asking his sitters for a suggested donation toward the project of £10 to £50 (less or free in poorer nations). This is partly to give him an income that has been decimated by the pandemic, he explains. He formerly worked in schools, art/science festivals and abroad. Ten per cent of all income will go to the international medical organisation Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières).

To see drawings and photos from the project and read the conversations Nick has had with his sitters, follow the #NickDrawsNationals hashtag on social media, or visit Nick plans to compile the drawings, photos and conversations into a printed book and have an exhibition when galleries are more widely open to the public again, To be part of the project, contact Nick at [email protected] or 07812 036415.