Sharing drawn and printed portrait of Rashid Campbell. Rashid supports many of artist Mohammed Ali’s projects and is an active volunteer in Balsall Heath, Birmingham UK. He was aware of my portrait making and had said he would be happy to be drawn. Pre Christmas I found myself sitting opposite him in a restaurant as he engaged in active conversation. Towards the end of the evening as we prepared to leave we larked around the lobby and he got on the FOOD bike.
The photographs from the evening captured Rashid’s character and the prominent hand movements emphasised his enthusiastic engagement with the assembled group. On in particular reflected these characteristics and became the basis for a drawn portrait. This was not fulfilled until the end of the first UL Covid Lockdown when a drawing was made using a new technique of sanded surface preparation to draw on. Once printed Mohammed suggested I share them and gave me Rashid’s WhatsApp contact as he was in quarantine following a trip to support Syrian Refugees in Lebanon. At first I was reticent to share small images on WhatsApp, but Ali encouraged me as he was interested to hear Rashid’s response.
Immediately a voicemail message appeared on my WhatsApp. Below is a transcript.
Wow hi John wow. I’m a, uh I’m lost for words I’m honoured, flattered and I’ve got the same shirt on .. laughs.. its my favourite shirt .. I’m just on the way back from Lebanon on the train heading towards Birmingham and that looks fantastic. Inshallah. After a couple of weeks of quarantine we can meet up. Thank you very much mate.
I’m just looking at it now and I think you’ve ….. I describe myself to people, or people describe me Rashid as a grafter … and I think you’ve caught that in this picture and that’s how I like to consider myself as a grafter, go out there and do the work. Get it done. Laughs. So I can see the labour on my face. I love it.
I think it’s got a bit of a Paul Newman cool hand luke to it with the blue eyes, I mean obviously you’ve used pencils and stuff but you’ve captured the blue eyes brilliant. I just wish I’d trimmed my beard a bit more, but I suppose it adds to the character. Fantastic.
Oh jonnie, just come back from some refugee camps in Lebanon and some of the people’s faces there .. its full of stories, just their faces, you would be in your element with these subjects
Image Syrian refugees found shelter in Lebanon …. only for their home to be destroyed during the recent ammonium nitrate explosion in the port.
We have arranged to meet when Rashid comes out of quarantine and Lockdown measures are relaxed in December. I look forward to sharing the full size prints.
December relaxation did not happen, but March has been possible and we arranged to meet in the studio, see the print and choose one. It was good to meet whatever the purpose as we hadn’t seen each other since he returned from charity deliveries in Lebanon and contracted covid back here. He has recovered and is back working with the ISRA Charity.
He could see his portrait printed on tissue paper and hanging with Yuchen and Carolines portraits. I also pointed out the collaborative portrait Mohammed and I had made with the stripe of pink. I turned over the three prints on cartridge I have available and suggested he choose his preferred image with or without background. He selected the one with most. background. I explained that the prints were new experiments using sanded acrylic and pointed out the gestural marks that the graphite had lodged within, beyond the figurative marks which give an additional texture. Most prominent sand marks are on the shirt and hand, but looking closely there are scratch marks in the face. These contrast with the scalpel scratched highlight marks of the beard. We discussed what t o title the chosen print and came down on ‘Rashid in the Flow’ to reference his love of Hip Hop culture. His hand is in the flow as he makes his point, over the dinner table we shared in December 2019 in Digbeth, hosted by Mohammed Ali for a group of friends between Christmas and New Year. I stamped, dated and titled the portrait and we counter signed the consent forms.
Rashid was genuinely thankful and announced he was heading to Mother’s house and would present the portrait to her. We discussed his Mother and Father’s family and his own. It seemed the portrait would be a proud recognition of himself. We viewed the prints below the collaborative portrait of Hamza, ‘Jacket Man’. Both people are converts to the Muslim Faith and Rashid asked if I would take a photo of him holding his portrait alongside Hamza’s.
This was a genuinely warm exchange in the Moseley School of Art studio Balsall Heath, the neighbourhood Rashid was brought up in and now works to deliver charitable aid. We shared our Celtic heritages. I rolled his portrait and consent form into a cardboard tube for transport and presented to Rashid.
Later that night I received a WhatsApp video from Rashid’s home where he asked his Mother to open the tube and see the portrait. She was surrounded by her family and husband to whom Rashid explained how the portrait has come about. The dialogue between the family is heartwarming and further justification of making portraits from discreet photographs for retrospective sharing and consent.