The Cook Islands People Project

Portrait Drawings of 222 Cook Islanders

In 2013, Judith was drawing 222 people who live in the Cook Islands, and all portrait sessions were in public places.

This required some guts, both from the artist who needed to achieve a good likeness, and from the sitters who risked misinterpretations of how they saw themselves. It raised question: how differently do we see each other - and what is the “right look”?

Unlike a photographic portrait that captures the sitter's expression in a fraction of a second, a portrait drawn from life, in 30 minutes to an hour, becomes a summary of a myriad of emotions of both, the sitter and the artist. Add to these external and internal movements shifting light sources and other environmental distractions like curious onlookers and their commentaries.

The portrait drawings became recordings of the moments, it represented life, with all its imperfections.

PDF of the Cook Islands People Project Exhibition
at the Beachcomber Contemporary Gallery in September 2013 on Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
(200 KB)

"Some sitters asked: Could an artist read minds?

"I was really touched by this question, because it expressed trust and closeness. No, I don’t think I could read minds, anymore than the sitters could read mine. I felt harmony in our togetherness.

"Did the drawing of so many portraits get easier?
No, each face was a brand-new event, co-operation and movement. The more experienced I got, the more I saw to draw.

Of course I had good days and better days, but neither I nor the sitter ever compromised. We were giving our best as we worked together."

The Cook Islands News supported this community project and reported its progress. Click on the images to download a PDF of the article, each is about 250 KB.