TV Sketching: The Dowager Countess

Apart from our recent location sketching, Julia and I have also been sketching from TV shows, and a recent fave is Downton Abbey, starring the wonderful Maggie Smith. DA_MaggieSmith In my opinion, she steals every almost episode as the dowager Countess, Lady Grantham. She inflects every line with subtle flaring of nostril, tilt of head or withering of stare, that imbue her character with equal part haughty snottiness, dry humour, and wry wisdom as the scene requires. She is so much fun to watch. This sketch here was my attempt at a straight portrait with my left hand, but my cartoon roots betray me, and try as I might to deliver a faithful representation, my version of Maggie Smith ends up looking like a pug dog in a fur coat.

I know that Downton Abbey is just a glorified soap opera about the priviledged British aristocracy  (written by the real-life Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, no less). So, why should an uncouth Australian like me care two hoots about Lady Rose’s utterly spiffing debutant Ball at Buckingham palace? Or whether Lady Mary can ever live down the beastly scandal of finding a dead Turk in her plush 4-poster bed? A big part of the appeal for me is the beautiful recreation of period detail, which British TV shows do so convincingly, leaving me with a nostalgia for a past that I would have most certainly been shut-out of, had I been there. This fascinated ambivalence is best represented in the show itself by Tom, the lefty Irish Chauffeur, who started out reviling the CrawIeys but is now one of them. Sort of.

I grew-up wondering whether the impoverished Walton family, or the equally desperate Ingals family, could make enough to survive their next winter, but now, for better or worse, I watch each week to see the tribulations of the 1% Crawley family. Will Lord Grantham find enough money to run his 80 room country Mansion and his opulent London Townhouse? Can he keep his pampered family in hot-and-cold running servants, and multiple changes of posh evening wear and diamonds?

I say,  frightfully desperate times, what?

24 thoughts on “TV Sketching: The Dowager Countess”

  1. I’d love to see a rendering of Bates standing atop a mound of bodies drenched in blood holding his cane and a hunting knife. Well anyway, it might make a nice companion piece to this Dowager portrait. The wrath of Bates!! :D

  2. It IS fascinating because it is so relatable I guess. I mean, I can almost imagine myself as one of these people, even though I know I would have surely not have been. But what would my life have been if I were a lady’s maid or worked in a kitchen? These things are also interesting to me. Would I have had a life outside of work? I love thinking about these questions when I watch the show and always place myself in it. You are so right, Tom is a fantastic and so very necessary character. If he were not there, I might not feel so warm about them. He is the transition guy. Great show. I always feel so relaxed when I watch it.

    • Lady Julia, So wonderful of you to grace us with your elegant presence. My, but those new diamonds, given to you by the Prince of Bohemia, are absolutely exquisite. Would you care for some Earl Grey? My new butler is an absolute genius with a teapot.

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