It’s odd that we Baby Boomers are now more or less the elder generation; it seems hardly any time ago we were partying in our velvet loons and platform boots back in the 1970s (and 1960s and 1980s). I’ve been working on this project for over a year now, gradually building up a portfolio of drawings of 100 ‘Baby Boomers’, people born between 1946 and 1964 to use in a large scale installation. I’ve drawn about 40 people so far, doing 30 minute sketches into a sketchbook.
Behind the nostalgia is a more serious undercurrent. As the previous generation of elders that fought World War 2 is dying out, the responsibility of remembering those horrors and preventing a recurrence falls onto the shoulders of us Baby Boomers. Xenophobia is on the rise across Europe. It’s time for us to grow up, step up and do the right thing.
My generation grew up with parents and grandparents who had been involved in massive world wars and the aftermath of those dreadful conflicts hung over our childhoods. But we’re also a very privileged generation; our elders established the Welfare State, the National Health Service, universal education, pensions, improved working conditions and decent wages, and we Boomers benefited from all that. My cousin and I were the first in our extended family to go into higher education, unthinkable to previous generations. We had full grants and no fees because we were from poorer working class families.
Someone asked me why I don’t draw from photos, but I think that drawings from photos look just like just that, drawings from photos. And an important part of the whole experience for me is the series of conversations I’m having, discussing the landmarks in our lives, the things that are iconic, the experiences we’ve had – the common ground and also where our experiences differ. I’ve drawn Boomers in two different venues so far, a museum and an artspace. This has been deliberate because I want the public to wander in and see how an artist approaches making a sketch. If I worked from my studio or visited people in their own home, I think I would lose the spontaneity I’m looking for. These conversations with real people also spark ideas for how to develop this work.
I’m not sure it’s such a nice experience for the people who sit – being stared at by me for half an hour. I can’t guarantee that the drawings will look exactly like them – if I was doing a formal portrait I’d do loads of drawings over several sittings. Sometimes the sketches look very much like the sitter, sometimes not and sometimes I just mange to get the essence. But the important thing for me is the meeting and the talking and capturing those fleeting moments in a quick drawing.
THE NEXT STEP
Well, I have to finish my 100 Boomers – I’m not quite half way there yet. I’ll be finding some new venues in South Wales to work from in the coming months and contacting people who have been willing to sit for me to get the series finished. I hope to complete my 100 by the end of 2016.
WHERE WILL IT END?
Once I’ve finished the 100 drawings, I’ll develop them into printmaking media like silkscreens, woodcuts or stamps and use these to build up an installation of small and large iconic images from our era which I aim to exhibit here and abroad. The conversations will determine which iconic images I will use and also influence the development of a soundtrack to the exhibition.