An art group based in the village of Magor is undertaking an unusual commission to paint historic portraits for a stage play.
For Newport Playgoers Society’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Janet Munsil, several portraits of the characters are required for one of the scenes when Elizabeth Bennet walks through Mr Darcy’s gallery on a tour of his ancestral home.
Art teacher Alison Heard and her community art group came to the rescue.
“It’s a great challenge for my pupils,” says Alison. “I took photos of the actors playing Darcy, Wickham and Georgiana in costumes kindly donated by Marigold Costumes in Cardiff. Then, we spent our weekly art sessions studying their features and building-up the portraits to make them as realistic as possible. All of the artists had a chance to work on each of the pieces so it has been a work of collaboration.”
Alison did a lot of research into paintings from the Regency period to make sure the hair, clothes and colours are all painted in the style of the time.
“I really enjoyed this,” said Alison who has a degree in Fine Art from the University of Glamorgan. “Although I’ve produced murals and mosaics, this is the first time I’ve done stage painting work. It’s been great fun and we’re all learning from the experience.”
“It’s really therapeutic,” says Sharanne Basham-Pyke from Newport. “You can’t think about anything else when you’re painting. You just focus on what you’re doing.”
Beginner Claire Dutson from Magor agrees. “I have a busy job with an engineering consultancy in Bristol, so it’s great to switch off and relax with the art group,” she says. “We have social nights too. We’ve been to see a few films together, so we’ve all become good friends.”
Patty James, a carer and balloon decorator from Underwood says that she was a bit daunted when she first joined the group, but Alison soon put her at ease. “I last did an art class at uni so it was a bit scary to take the first step back to it, but I really love it now. I just go with the flow,” she says.
The group are excited about seeing their work displayed on stage at the Dolman Theatre in Newport during the production of Pride and Prejudice which runs from May 14th to 18th.
“I can’t wait,” says Sharanne. “We’ve really enjoyed working in the theatre and meeting all the actors. I’m bringing all my friends and family to see the play.”
Art Club Social meets on Thursdays in Magor @theartclubsocial.
MAIN PHOTO: Magor Art Club with their Pride and Prejudice portraits (Left to right) Claire Dutson, Alison Heard, Patty James and Sharanne Basham-Pyke. Photo by Paul Johnson.