By Emily Pedder
In an exciting collaboration with Anxiety Arts Festival London 2014 and The National Portrait Gallery, City, University of London’s short courses lecturer and writer Emily Midorikawa led a practical workshop, ‘The Blank Page’, exploring how writers approach the process of creating a character.
The workshop delved into the ways a writer harnesses the anxiety of the waiting page to his or her advantage in developing fictional characters. Activities included attendees looking closely at some of the portraits housed in the gallery to show the different ways to gain inspiration for a character.
The sell-out workshop was a great success, with a wide range of attendees developing their writing skills in the picturesque surroundings of the gallery. Emily said “It was an amazing opportunity to be able to work with images from the National Portrait Gallery’s collections. The portrait I ended up using for the basis of the writing activities was Patrick Heron’s painting of A.S. Byatt and I was delighted by the determination with which workshop participants approached the various tasks. In the two-hour session, we concentrated on developing convincing characters with words and confronting the potential anxiety of the blank page.”
Anna B. Sexton, Learning and Community Involvement Curator for Anxiety Arts Festival, said “We were really happy with how the event went. ‘The Blank Page’ event gave the audience a chance to work with a professional, successful academic author and the workshop reached maximum capacity, which is really great.
“The overriding theme for the Anxiety Arts Festival London has been different mental health and the need to alleviate or exacerbate it. The National Portrait Gallery is one of the most visited places in London, but it’s not often linked with mental health. But actually, even having your picture taken, and then looking at the picture can be uncomfortable, and the relationship between a subject and an artist when painting a portrait often holds even more anxiety, so it was a wonderful opportunity to do a workshop in the gallery.”