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Art of The Grand Theatre by its first resident artist
image of two ballet dancers
The Bolshoi's Svetlana Zakharova and Andrei Merkuriev performing on stage

The smell of the greasepaint has got under the skin of artist Zoe James-Williams.

Standing in the wings of Swansea's Grand Theatre, she has portrayed rock legends, ballet dancers and opera stars.

Now the work of the Victorian theatre's first resident artist takes centre stage.

She said: "It's a great privilege to see these people working and they have been wonderful.

It's amazing how they just carry on no matter what, maybe we could all learn something from that
Zoe James-Williams

"I have always been fascinated by the figures of people, but I have really found my passion in the theatre.

"They allowed me to sit in the wings and see all the work that goes on behind the scenes. It is quite a magical experience."

Twilight world

She has worked with the English National Ballet, Swansea Ballet Russe and principal dancers of the Bolshoi, Marlinsky and Royal Opera House.

She has also produced depictions of the Rolling Stones former bass player Bill Wyman, actor and singer David Essex and former soap star Leslie Grantham.

"But the Welsh National Opera was definitely one of my highlights," she said.

"To see these huge sets moving around is absolutely amazing.

"Being in the wings is kind of like being in a twilight world and you see the unsung heroes who actually keep the productions going."

She sketches the performers during rehearsals as well as during their performances, sometimes supplementing that research with photographs, and produces work in pen and ink, pastel, watercolours, and oils.

"With the ballet, what I'm actually looking at is a top class athlete basically," she said.

Naturally, things don't always go as planned on stage, particularly when props are involved.

"It's amazing how they just carry on no matter what," she said. "Maybe we could all learn something from that."

She also teaches budding artists at The Grand Theatre and has just been taken on for a second term as the artist in residence there.

Some of her students' efforts will be on show together with an exhibition of her work in the theatre's Arts Wing from 6 September until 24 September 1000-1600 BST Monday to Friday.

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