Sketching on Stage with Oliver Lovley


The Pitman Painters by Lee Hall

In 1934 a group of Northumberland miners attended a WEA evening class in art appreciation. Struggling to understand the paintings they were presented with, they began to paint the everyday things they saw around them, producing some iconic artwork.

Lee Hall, writer of Billy Elliot, again champions that culture should be available to all and tells their story in this award winning play. Funny, emotive and entertaining, the play examines the lives of this group of ordinary men who do extraordinary things.

Oliver Lovley in character

Oliver Lovley as Robert Lyon in “The Pitman Painters”, photograph by Grace Eden.

Oliver Lovley ASGFA, played Robert Lyon, artist and teacher. The role merged artist Oliver’s own talents in theatre and visual art. Here he explains more about keeping a sketchbook of the project and how it helped.

Why is it important to keep a sketchbook?

It is important because in my opinion it is comparable to doing scales on a musical instrument. Observational drawing is a skill I use in many ways constantly and I need to maintain it. I am only as good as the practice I have done.

How do you find combining theatre and visual art?

I found combining theatre and visual art quite a roller coaster ride – it had elements of a live art show where I would be demonstrating my drawing, but I was not supposed to be myself. Also when I was drawing live onstage I had only two minutes to finish and I was speaking lines at the same time. And I was using my non-dominant hand to draw!

Oliver drawing on stage using his left hand

Oliver drawing actor Fraser Wanless on stage using his left hand, photograph by Grace Eden.

When drawing on stage is it the character drawing or you?

I found that drawing live stage whilst speaking lines helped me to get a better idea of the character, who incidentally was a real person – the artist and teacher Robert Lyon. His work I believe is in the Essex Town Hall. I usually feel that drawing live is a performance.

Did drawing as someone else effect your own drawing style?

I found in the play I didn’t have time between scene changes for it to affect my style! I was drawing what I saw in front of me (another actor) and then I had to get off!

What other projects can we expect to hear about in the future?

At the moment I am finishing a large wall mural at The Malt Cross Music Hall in Nottingham where for the last year I have been their resident artist.
Very soon I will be designing and building a small set for a play ‘The Dance of Death’ by August Strindberg at The Lace Market Theatre. I am also exhibiting this year at Focus Gallery, Nottingham and The Nottingham Society of Artists.


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Oliver Lovley interviewed by Charlie Kirkham SGFA. Charlie is the Editor of the Society of Graphic Fine Art Journal and a contributing writer. For more information please see

This entry was posted in Artist in Residence, Interviews, The Sketchbook Series and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sketching on Stage with Oliver Lovley

  1. Jo Hall says:

    Your portraits really speak to me. How exciting to be part of performance in two different ways simultaneously! Fascinating.

  2. brigdale says:

    Love the article, thank you Oliver and Charlie. Oliver I liked your quote on the importance of
    sketchbooks, thank you both.

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