Artist in Residence

Sophie Walbeoffe: Lamu Workshop 2014

Sophie WalbeoffeSophie Walbeoffe embraces the moment. Her spontaneity is apparent as she removes her sketchbook from a large shoulder bag and begins to draw, regardless of having only a moment to spare before climbing into a boat at the jetty. She has a knack of moving deftly between intense observation and vivacious participation, which makes my head spin. Yet, it works for her.

Sophie’s career as an artist has spanned decades as well as continents. Her early years were spent in the UK, where she was raised and attended art school. Later she became a traveling artist, painting in the footsteps of many well-known painters in Egypt, the Middle East and Europe and throughout northern Kenya. “I have painted in fascinating places,” Sophie recalls.  “I don’t like to winge so I embrace the differences I find and look for artists who have lived or worked here.” Sometimes her search uncovers artists from past centuries, like her paintings and etchings in Jerusalem. When this occurs Sophie is known to set up her easel at the identical location as the earlier painter.  “It’s a bit like being in their shadow,” she explains, as well as honouring their place in history.

This is not Sophie’s first time to Lamu. She first visited in 1988 and has returned many times to paint and sketch the unique cultural atmosphere of Lamu’s streets, seafront and people. On this trip she found it all much easier. “In my 31 years of painting, I have never been treated so well,” Sophie replies ardently after a question about painting in Lamu. “But I feel so sorry for Lamu,” she adds, reflecting on the current state of affairs. “We need to bring art, love and light here.” Sophie does just that in her expressive watercolours of island life.

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