New Drawing: The Shadow He Pursues

The Shadow He Pursues (Charcoal and Gesso on Canvas Board 60cm x 60cm)

This was the third and final submission to the Kyffin Williams Drawing Prize to be held at the Oriel, and I’m pleased to say that this piece was accepted!

It was inspired by reading Sir Kyffin’s anecdote from his book, ‘A Wider Sky’, as quoted by Andrew Green in his lecture of 2016:

One summer evening, not long after I arrived at Pwllfanogl, a friend came to visit me with his small son aged five. As we stood at the water’s edge, with gentle waves breaking at our feet, the little boy looked up at me:

‘What will happen to you when you die?’ he asked with a look of concern on his face. I knew I had to answer with a confidence I did not possess.

‘Oh, it will be wonderful,’ I said. ‘I shall slip into the sea and be swept away by the water, and I shall be carried under the bridges and away to Penmon and the open sea. Oh, yes, it will be rather wonderful.’

As he listened to me the worry seemed to disappear from his face and he ran off to throw stones into the waters that were to carry me away …

This was such a beautiful story and conjured up such a wonderful image of hope in the face of the inevitability of death.

It also brought to mind a vision of Sir Kyffin standing on the shore of the Menai Straits on his beloved Anglesey and staring at the other love of his life, Snowdonia. Snowdon itself appears in outline in my drawing, and this seemed apt since I’m led to believe that Yr Wyddfa translates as ‘The Tomb’, although I’ve been unable to confirm it with Welsh speaking friends.

In one of his talks, Sir Kyffin also spoke about his encounters with a Brocken Spectre, something with which the hill farmers he so often portrayed would have been familiar, so I’ve incorporated it into the drawing as well as making reference to it with the title, taken from the final line of Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s poem “Constancy to an Ideal Object”:

And art thou nothing? Such thou art, as when
The woodman winding westward up the glen
At wintry dawn, where o’er the sheep-track’s maze
The viewless snow-mist weaves a glist’ning haze,
Sees full before him, gliding without tread,
An image with a glory round its head;
The enamoured rustic worships its fair hues,
Nor knows he makes the shadow he pursues!

As with the other pieces in the series, I’ve attempted to draw wider parallels within this submission by metamorphosing the shadow/Brocken Spectre into the silhouette of the Rev. Michael D. Jones, who was the visionary who “proposed setting up a Welsh-speaking colony away from the influence of the English language“, which led to the creation of the Welsh enclave, Yr Wladfa (The Colony) in Patagonia, Argentina.

In making this allusion, I was trying to suggest that, whilst death comes to us all, you can’t kill an idea, especially when they are passed on one from one generation to the next.


The series of three drawings is intended to pay homage to the life of Sir Kyffin Williams in this, the centenary of his birth, and they were inspired by reading numerous articles, writings and speeches by and about him. Any historical or interpretive inaccuracies are entirely my own!

The full list of drawings submitted to the competition is as follows:

  1. This Be The Verse
  2. Milltir Sgwar
  3. The Shadow He Pursues

The Kyffin Williams Drawing Prize “was founded in 2009 by the Kyffin Williams Trust and Oriel Môn; and works in partnership with the National Museum Wales, Cardiff and the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. The competition – which is held every three years – aims to promote and reward excellence and talent in drawing practice across Wales. It also serves as a tribute to the support Kyffin Williams gave to aspiring artists and the value he placed on drawing skills throughout his career.

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