Painting and Poetry: January

Ellora and Léna's residency began in January with a Zoom meet up, lots of Austen chat and a virtual tour. We asked them if they would like to use their first month to create something for Pride and Prejudice Day on 28 January, a challenge which they responded to with enthusiasm, charm, and not a little humour!

For Pride & Prejudice Day, Léna created a series of illustrations exploring the story from Mr Darcy’s point of view…

Léna: We tried different things but for Pride & Prejudice Day we focused on the ideas that we spoke about of “Debunking Colin Firth”, the weirdness of human relationships, and how people still behave badly, and we came up respectively with Ellora’s poem, which gives a completely new feel to Mr Darcy, and my series of pictures where you can kind of “hear Mr Darcy’s thoughts” and see it from his point of view.

Ellora: Pride and Prejudice was the first Jane Austen novel I read, my nan bought me a £2.50 Wordsworth Classics paperback on my first ever visit to the House, so it will forever have a special place in my heart! ‘I am Mr Darcy.’ started with Lena’s delightful illustrations, which helped unlock for me the way in which I relate to Mr Darcy as a very awkward person myself, and as a queer person in particular. I think Pride and Prejudice is, largely, about the role of societal expectations in and the effect they have on relationships, and I think that translates naturally into the queer experience. This poem was a really fun way for me to explore that.

I am Mr Darcy.

By this I don’t mean gorgeously wealthy
or Colin Firth or diving into a lake wet-
shirt enough to melt a veiled Vestal Virgin.

I don’t even mean man.

No. I mean –
socially awkward and terrified of your mother.

I mean coming out
pink and pruned, rotten roses,
fleshy stamen of an algal bloom.
Spindles of grass and dust affixing themselves
to my feet, a cut on my ankle from a slippery green rock.
I mean oh I am raw rubies.

I mean being scared to hold your hand
in front of my friends, your friends, your mother.

I mean saying my lip gloss is your jewel-tone
and turning away, offering the stick instead.
I mean wanting to dance with you but not
wanting to dance.
I mean –

I want. I mean I
want. I mean
I want
you.

Listen to Ellora reading her poem I am Mr Darcy…

Léna’s illustrations explore Pride & Prejudice from Mr Darcy’s perspective…

And as a final treat, Léna shares with us her process, from first sketches to finished artwork….

Léna: For these illustrations I did everything on my iPad and the Procreate app, with a little colour twitching in Photoshop as a last touch. I find that the iPad makes drawing really close to the feeling of drawing by hand and it’s quite useful to be able to record the whole process like this and hopefully learn from it!

I started out drawing by hand a lot, but I switched to digital drawing means because it offers so many possibilities without needing a lot of materials (which for someone who lives between two countries is great!).