Frank Kiely RE: Sketches in Lockdown

I have a daily sketching practice that I post on Social Media. It began in October 2014 when I was visiting my family in Dublin, Ireland. While there I witnessed my nieces constantly taking photographs of themselves with their phones and uploading these “selfies” onto social media. It was excellent to see that young people were being creative making visual images and that they were sharing them with their friends. I did think their selfies were a bit repetitive as it looked to me like they photographed the same side angle pouting face every time - but a good start nonetheless. I thought it would be amazing if people started to do daily sketches of themselves and shared them online instead. So I decided to be the change I wanted to see and to draw a selfie every day and post it on Twitter for just one month.


It was hard going. Not every day you feel like drawing, and it can be hard to find the time. Not to mention that some days the last thing you want to do is draw yourself when you're not feeling so perky. But saying this, I accomplished my task and posted a selfie every day for a month.



Part of the intention behind posting my sketches publicly was not to show beautiful pictures but rather to challenge the myth of the effortless genius of an artist. My posts were to be a 'warts and all' approach showing clearly that not every picture I make is a masterpiece. I was more concerned with the joy of connecting with my creative side and sincerely hoped it would encourage others to draw more too. I would never have known that these first drawings I posted on social media would pave the way to me developing a daily sketching practice that I have continued ever since.


Some years back I decided to push the boundaries of my sketching posts and take on a project for the year. In 2017 I sketched in watercolour using a brush. In 2018 I continued with watercolour but made it harder by having to sketch from life every day. In 2019 I went back to drawing with a pen or marker but increased the size to A3. 


This year I decided to use marker pen only and do faces. I was not interested in getting a likeness, and did not want to overthink the image. I therefore limited my drawing time to anything from 5 mins to 1 hour maximum. I wanted to make quick, spontaneous images and see what I could achieve with just a black marker pen.


To get the ball rolling I kicked off 2020 with a self-portrait on New Year’s Day. Little did I know the challenges that lay ahead. Starting out I sketched random people, photographed friends and sketched them and occasionally sketched from images I found in the Media.



When lockdown was imposed everything changed. I was unable to sketch people out and about. Everyone became worried and paranoid due to the pandemic so I did not think it wise to even try. Also as I was not bumping into friends and acquaintances in my “normal” day I was at a loss as to how to continue my project. At last I decided to turn to social media and sent out a call on Instagram and Twitter for people to post selfies and tag me to sketch them. The requests did not come flooding in. It was hard to get people to send me selfies at first. At a loss of what to do I used faces I found in the backgrounds of old photos. There were a few occasions when I had nothing to work from so I turned to drawing from photos of relatives and friends who had passed away. But slowly the selfies started coming in and in time I got a great response from people from many parts of the world. It just took me asking people personally to send selfies to support my project. I mustn’t forget to mention that I got many photos through the help of friends who encouraged people they know to send photos to me.


Thank you to everyone who has taken part, I could not have done it without you. I hope you enjoy the selection of sketches presented in New Work by the RE: Printmakers in Lockdown at Bankside Gallery. The project is still running and I still face the challenges of getting new people every day. You can view them all in my Instagram page: @frankkiely.



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November 3, 2020