The Project

Portraits Untold is an ambitious and unique project exploring and celebrating the diversity of our common humanity through a series of four live portrait sittings with high profile sitters in well-known venues taking place in summer and autumn 2016 across the UK.

The project will see acclaimed award winning disabled artist, Tanya Raabe-Webber undertake four live portrait sittings that fuse digital and tradition drawing and painting techniques in an interactive live environment, inviting physical and online audiences to join in. The sittings will see the artist in conversation with the sitters and in some cases collaborating, as they explore what it is to be human through the stories of the lives and the work of the sitters. The conversations will also explore how art and the artistic process is central to the representation, discussion and our thinking on cultural diversity and contemporary society.

A total of four sitters have been invited to be the subjects at the live events in well known and well loved venues across the country. Each sitting will take place in front of a live audience in these well known public venues, as well as being streamed live to online audiences. Both the physical and online audiences will be invited to participate in the event, join in the dialogue and explore diversity whilst also developing their own creative responses in the form of drawings, both on paper and through digital drawing apps on their smart phones and tablets.

Tanya Rabbe-Webber says “As a disabled artist, the notion of my own diversity drives my interest in people and the exploration of the human condition and the belief that everyone has the potential to be creative if given the opportunity. I am well known as a painter of people, however I have wanted to develop a way to engage audiences more fully in the subject matter of my work and also within its physicality. I have developed this project with Independent Producer Mandy Fowler and the venue partners to enable creativity to be as accessible as possible.”

Project Aims

Portraits Untold has been devised to reach new audiences through the use of online platforms as well as public events, opening dialogue with audiences about the presentation of diversity and disability within contemporary portraiture and enabling physical and online audiences to engage in the production of new work. I am thrilled at the calibre of the sitters and the venues that we are able to deliver this exciting project with.”

The project has been funded by Arts Council England through lottery funding.

Supporting Partners

  • University of Birmingham - Digital Humanities Hub

    The Digital Humanities Hub at the University of Birmingham focuses on collaborative digital humanities research, working across the Arts and Humanities with cultural and heritage organisations, digital and creative industries and academics. A core part of the team’s work is exploring and researching the impacts of innovative and novel technology (such as large multi-touch tables, virtual reality experiences, data mining, etc. ), providing artists, cultural organisations and academics with access to R&D opportunities.

    The Hub aims to develop new research collaborations across the arts and humanities and has developed several projects including D2ART, CATH (The Collaborative Triple Helix Project), the Digital Cultural Heritage Demonstrator Project and SMARTCulture.

    Dr Chris Creed leads a significant research theme around digital accessibility, investigating the potential of digital and assistive technology for disabled users. These innovative research projects are in collaboration with a multi-disciplinary partnership of disabled artists, national disability charities, international and national education partners and arts organisations. In particular, D2ART is a collaborative project that has involved working in partnership with over 35 disabled artists investigating their current practice. This research is examining the potential impact that affordable and novel digital assistive technologies such as eye-gaze tracking, interactive mid-air gesturing and motion tracking can have on creative and wider artists’ practice.

    For Portraits Untold, Dr Creed will be collaborating further with Tanya Raabe-Webber exploring how digital technologies can support and augment Tanya’s artistic practice within the environment of live portrait sittings.

    Dr Creed, Tanya and the rest of The Portraits Untold team are also investigating maximising the usability of this technology in terms of its appropriateness with engaging the public in artistic practice, through test sittings at the Digital Humanities Hub as well as the actual live sittings.

    Dr Chris Creed

  • Big Draw

    The Big Draw is a partner for Portraits Untold.

    Founded in 2000, The Big Draw (formally The Campaign for Drawing) is an arts education charity that promotes visual literacy and the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning, expression and invention. The charity leads a diversified programme encompassing advocacy, empowerment and engagement, and is the founder and driving force behind The Big Draw Festival – the world’s biggest celebration of drawing.

    The Big Draw manages collaborative research projects, campaigns and educational conferences on visual literacy, digital technology and STEAM (the fields of study in the categories of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). We support professional and emerging artists through The John Ruskin Prize and exhibition, and through events, awards, and competitions, we create platforms for each and everyone who wants to draw.

    Kate Mason, Director, The Big Draw said: “”We live in a world increasingly dominated by visual imagery and digital media with tantalisingopportunities just over the horizon. We can speculate where digital technologies and their implication, and application for what denotes art in our contemporary culture make take us, but it remains a constantly shifting andrapidly evolving landscape with kaleidoscope pathways where almost anythingseems possible.

    Against this flux we share our collective experience of what it means to be human, with all its commonality and vast differences and diversity.

    We are delighted to support ‘Portraits Untold’, a unique project led by artist Tanya Raabe-Webber. Her skill in exploring the fusing of digital and tradition drawing techniques uniquely lends itself to the dual narrative asstoryteller for the everyday in all its quirkiness, as well as a mirror to reflect the extraordinary possibilities for creativity as we all move forward in the digital unknown.”