A Conversation With Irene Vidal

May 31, 2019

A Conversation With Irene Vidal


Irene Vidal is the illustrator and designer behind our new title Charles Causley: A Portrait of the Poet, which we’re publishing for The Causley Trust. I caught up with her this week to talk about the project.


This project is quite different in approach and subject matter from some of your past work, how would you describe your work in general? How would you describe yourself as a practitioner?
I think this project was different to my general practice at first glance, but I still got to apply my way of working in the making of this book.
I generally work around big subjects such as the Spanish Civil War and break them down to the “particular”. Then I exhaustively examine that “particular” and I link it to existing or fictitious narratives.In the case of making this book, I was lucky to be able to immerse myself in the life and heritage of Charles Causley, which allowed me to shed some light onto particular objects and aspects of his work and life.

Can you talk a little bit about your process with this book?
I was very excited to begin this project because it required a full immersion into the poet’s world. The making of the book began with my first visit to Cyprus Well. There the first ideas arose and I decided that I would be drawing from observation and photographs of his surroundings in graphite on paper. I chose this medium because it is an ordinary and humble way of making work. It was very easy for me to begin sketching in Charles Causley’s house and then continue drawing in my studio back in Falmouth.
After a couple of months sketching and drawing I visited the Special Collection Archive at Exeter University, where I got to see some of Charles Causley’s correspondence, postcard collections and other manuscripts.
Following my visit to the archive, I was offered a short artist residence at Cyprus Well, home of Causley, where I drew and photographed his belongings and immediate surroundings.


What was that experience like? How do you think it changed the course of the project?
This book wouldn’t have been the same without my residency at Cyprus Well. During my time there I got to absorb the subtleties of Causley’s home. The lighting at the house, which was quite dark in places, inspired the graphite richness of the illustrations and the general mood of the book: a quiet space where we can take time to stop and point a light at the poet’s life.
During the residency, I particularly enjoyed the quietness of the house and the area he lived in. I worked in his studio from the early morning until midnight every day listening to his records, a truly inspiring experience!

The Causley house is full of interesting and significant objects. How did you go about choosing which items to draw and include in the book? 
Every time I walked through the house I would notice something new and different. I am not sure why I chose to illustrate certain objects, but I would often pick the ones that made me wonder why he held on to them. One of my favourite objects was a see-through plastic unicorn that I found at the bottom of his desk drawer amongst his pens and other stationary.
During my residency I aimed to create my own narrative through his objects to then apply it to the character of the text. The book compiles an endearing archive of anecdotes, documents and stories about Causley that make you feel you know the man behind the poems.


Your work seems to be very often focused on the book object as a creative device, what elements did you include in the design for this book which make it special?
It’s a secret!

Was there anything you found challenging while working on the book?
I wanted to faithfully represent the man behind the poetry, and for me to do so in a book full of anecdotes from his friends, pupils and readers was quite challenging.

Choosing what to illustrate and what to include in the book was key. There is a pile of discarded drawings that never made it into the book but were essential for me to develop this project.

What did you find most rewarding about working on the project?
To get to know Charles Causley’s work and life has been an honour to me. Also, to be able to spend all this time on a project that is going to be published is very exciting.


What’s next for you? 
Now that the days are longer and lighter, I hope to develop some of my old projects in the evenings, the time of the day I enjoy drawing the most.

Keep an eye on our site and social media to be the first to pick up a copy of the book and be sure to check out Irene’s work on her Instagram page

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