Some people start the new year by resolving to keep a diary, but last January Gideon Summerfield went a step further. He pledged that on every day of 2012 he would complete a drawing, inspired by the day’s most important news and events.
The 17-year-old, who last year took on the challenge of sketching all 300 of his classmates at JFS, chose a good year for his project, after starting with a drawing of fireworks exploding over Big Ben.
His 366 ink drawings include those celebrating British success at the Olympics and marking the Queen’s Jubilee, as well as more sombre images recalling the deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan or the heroism of Tina Strobos, a Dutch Righteous Gentile who sheltered and saved more than 100 Jews during the Holocaust. Most of the drawings took a maximum of half an hour to complete; Gideon added colour to some of them later.
There are personal scenes, such as his grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, and topical issues, such as one of Yossi Benayoun after controversial antisemitic chanting by fans, or another of Taliban gunshot victim, the teenage activist Malala Yousefzai.
Throughout the year he sketched an array of Jewish figures, from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to feminist writer Naomi Wolf. After reading about her campaign in the JC, he drew Ankie Spitzer, widow of one of the athletes murdered during the Munich Olympics, who petitioned for a minute’s silence to be held at the London 2012 opening ceremony.
In November Gideon and his family stayed up all night at their Finchley home to watch Barack Obama be re-elected president — an event promptly immortalised in his sketchbook. And last month he sketched a cheerful Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis after he was announced as Lord Sacks’s successor as chief rabbi.
Gideon, who started the project after being given the sketchbook by his mother Francesca, is studying at Hampstead Fine Arts College and hopes to study illustration at university next year. He said that at times the task was overwhelming, but that it had kept him well-informed of what was going on in the news and that working on so many portraits had been great for his “people-spotting skills”.
He admitted: “There were days I didn’t want to do anything, but I knew I just had to be disciplined and keep doing it. Sometimes I had to catch up a day or so later. It did take over a bit.”
His last drawing was of UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi , who this week urged the Assad regime to agree to a cesefire. Gideon said he felt it was a fitting end to the sketchbook, since he drew Assad at the start of the year. “It proves nothing has been resolved which is very sad,” he said.
Though Gideon said he was sad to have finished his marathon project, he declared: “I might do it again one day but, this year, I’m taking a break.”