Viarco Pencil Factory Residency, Portugal. 20 July to 1 August 2019

On the 20th July, 2019 at 6.18am my visit to the Viarco Pencil Factory in São João da Madeira, North West Portugal started from Kings Cross St Pancras, in the good company of Caroline Holt Wilson, a fellow HB Drawing peer.

We travelled via Paris on the Eurostar, SNCF to Hendaye where we caught the overnight sleeper to Lisbon. The following morning we took a train heading North following the coast and alighted at Espinho before taking a rusty, much graffitied local train to our destination…São João da Madeira,

The next eight days were spent drawing and painting on a residency at the marvellous Viarco Pencil Factory…one of the oldest pencil factories in Europe. We were given the freedom of the factory to explore the buildings and experiment with their varied product range from colour pigments to graphite.

The photos above give a flavour of the magic of the building and machinery much endorsed by the warmth of our welcome by all at Viarco. The drawings reflect the freedom given to travel in any direction.

The process with the graphite drawings, in particular, echoed the repetition of movement on the factory floor. Repeated polishing action, between each layer of graphite laid, causes the surface to shine.

I went on to explore the watercolour pigments and crayons using them both wet and dry, seeking out wet areas to make the pigments bleed and leaving other areas dry to keep the line crisp and fine.

We were joined towards the end of our week by four artists, also part of the residency… together we will be showcasing a body of work in an exhibition  – ‘How Graphite Thinks’ in December.

My thanks go to Jo Lane and Caroline Holt Wilson for the invitation to take part in this residency and to Jose Vieira and all those at the factory for their support and warm welcome.

It was magical….