The Long Look: The Making of a Portrait

Norman McBeath, Audrey’s Hands (detail), 2017 © Norman McBeath.

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The Long Look is a collaboration between the painter Audrey Grant and the photographer and printmaker Norman McBeath. It explores the art of portraiture beyond the conventional artist and sitter relationship, revealing what became a unique creative exchange between the two artists. Grant asked McBeath to sit for a portrait in charcoal, said this would take 'weeks probably months' and asked him to photograph the drawing at the end of each sitting. She would then erase the drawing at the start of the next sitting and begin the portrait anew.

McBeath was intrigued by the way Grant was working which led him to photograph aspects of this process such as Audrey's hands, the sitter's chair, the charcoal. He said 'I became fascinated by the sheer physicality of Grant's drawing: the constant back and forth to the easel, the scrapes, rubs and wipes of the charcoal and cloth on the paper, the sharp snap of a new piece of black willow.' Grant completed the portrait after two years of sittings alongside another portrait of McBeath and two long-durational portraits of the award-winning crime writer Val McDermid.  

The four finished portraits, along with images of all the versions of the drawings that no longer exist, and McBeath's photographs will be on display in this fascinating and revelatory exhibition.


25 May – 27 October

Daily, 10am–5pm (July), 10am–6pm (August)

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Scottish National Portrait Gallery
National Galleries of Scotland
1 Queen Street,
Edinburgh, EH2 1JD