Project 13: Comberton Village College pupil Rowan Briggs Smith paints 13 fellow 13-year-olds
With a constant stream of altered photographs being displayed by teens – and indeed older people – all over social media, one teenager is taking a different, more traditional approach to capturing the unfiltered ‘true face’ of youth.
Rowan Briggs Smith is a 13-year-old artist from Comberton who has enjoyed drawing, painting and making things ever since she was a small child.
A member of the AccessArt charity’s #BeACreativeProducer team, Rowan has devised a new assignment entitled Project 13, where she set herself the challenge of painting 13 portraits of 13 other 13-year-olds from her school, Comberton Village College.
Rowan told the Cambridge Independent: “A lot of teenagers at the moment are taking selfies, so I thought it would be interesting to paint portraits of people my own age without filters, and to try to show their true personalities. Because I’m 13, I just decided to do 13 portraits.”
Rowan, whose mum Paula is an art teacher, added: “Photo filters kind of make everyone look the same, and I thought my portraits would help to show what people are truly like.”
To find volunteers willing to be immortalised on canvas, Rowan invited her Instagram followers to be part of the project, and also spoke in a school assembly.
“I had about 35 people interested, and I took their photos – or they sent them to me – and I picked the ones that inspired me the most, or that I would be able to convey in the portrait.”
Some of Rowan’s classmates were keen to know whether they had ‘made the cut’. “I did have quite a few people asking ‘are you going to paint me?’ and I’d already decided I wasn’t,” she said. “I told them that maybe one day after the project was finished because I’ve still got their photos.”
Rowan chose images from friends and pupils from her year with whom she was less familiar. “I did a mixture, so some of them are close friends and some of them I don’t know that well,” she said. “I think painting friends you know well is more difficult because you know more about them, so there’s more to get across in the portrait.”
With the 13 portraits finished, Rowan is now framing and mounting them – with the help of her mum – and has arranged for an exhibition to take place at the Michaelhouse Centre on Trinity Street, Cambridge, for two weeks from February 18.
“My mum thought it would be a good idea to share the portraits and have an opening night,” said Rowan. “I’ve been sharing them a bit on social media, but I wanted to share all the portraits at once, so we thought an opening night and then an exhibition might be a good idea. It will be nice for everyone to see them all at once.”
After the exhibition, Rowan will be giving her ‘models’ the option to buy their portraits, and will also be giving them free prints. She hopes to continue along this artistic path and is taking an early GCSE in art.
Project 13 launches on Monday, February 18, 7pm-8pm.