Ortelius Drew* is a collaborative, mobile, and performative drawing project led by artists Doreen Wittenbols (Amsterdam) and Ilga Leimanis (London). Taking the city as their principle subject matter, they focus on public settings of leisure (gardens and parks), sites of temporary architecture as well as public museum collections. As present-day flâneurs, they move through the city establishing temporary, yet deeply empathetic and intimate relationships with all that they see – all the while conscious of both contemporary and historic gendering of public spaces.

Ortelius Drew situates itself within the realm of what Nicolas Bourriaud defines as Relational Art “an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space” (2002, p 14). The artists of Ortelius Drew work both individually and together in public. They employ sketchbooks to record, collect and process information. They also draw when traveling and record sights, tastes and sounds as social practice. They explore the following, in no particular order: drawing from direct observation; sketching as conversation; working in multiples (eventually from memory), etc., resulting in whimsical images.

Ilga and Doreen lead drawing groups in their respective cities; and in the process, they attract observers from the public – who in turn take part in the broader, participatory aspect of this work. Notably research-based, Ortelius Drew’s goal is to gain a greater insight into public exchanges in the city.

* The project’s origins were loosely based on Phyllis Pearsall, the artist and businesswoman who single-handedly mapped out London and published the first “A-Z Atlas” in 1936. Following adventures through maps we were interested in deepening our connection to cartography: discovering Abraham Ortelius who was recognised as the creator of the first modern atlas the Theatre of the World / Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.


Canadian artists Ilga Leimanis and Doreen Wittenbols met while studying at Concordia University in Montreal. Since its conception in 2007, this collaboration has led both artists to run drawing groups in their respective cities. Ortelius Drew participated in the Kanaal 10 artist residency and has exhibited work in London, Amsterdam, Manchester and Berlin. In 2010, they were commissioned to create a site-specific installation for the annual Open West exhibition in Cheltenham, UK. Ortelius Drew also runs drawing workshops and events.

Montreal born Ilga Leimanis MA is a London-based visual artist who works in drawing and painting. Ongoing work includes a research-based series from the military collection of Kings College London Archive, and an exploration of energetic spaces both large and small. Ilga is a member of Five Years, a collaborative artists’ project in London, where her most recent exhibition was in collaboration with architect Bidisha Sinha.

Her teaching experience of 10 years has been varied and rewarding. She has taught Short Courses at Central Saint Martins since 2007. For University of the Arts London, Ilga delivers Thinking Through Drawing workshops, and together with her research collaborator, has been awarded Retain-Achieve-Succeed research funding to investigate drawing as a necessary skill for creative activity. Since 2006, Ilga helped develop and delivers a manual skills drawing programme for architects and engineers for Drawing At Work. She has taught at leading offices in London, most recently working with over 150 architects at Foster+Partners. Ilga has been invited to deliver workshops for a broad range of students and professionals, including urban planners, public sector practitioners, portfolio preparation students in Shanghai and Beijing, landscape architects, film production design students and primary school children and teachers. Ilga was invited to contribute three chapters to Creative Sketching Workshop, published by Apple Press (UK), North Light Books (North America) and Tan Yang International (Asia). More information:

Doreen Wittenbols (born Breda, The Netherlands) is a Dutch-Canadian visual artist working primarily in drawing & painting. Upon graduating from the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto she was the recipient of the academic Governor-General’s award – one of the highest honours that can be bestowed to Canadian artists. Wittenbols completed her MFA from Concordia University in Montreal where she also taught a painting class for undergraduate students. She has received several academic scholarships, as well as funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and Les Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec.

After participating in two Dutch artist residencies, Wittenbols decided to relocate permanently to the Netherlands and make Amsterdam home. Her work has been exhibited throughout Canada, the UK and the Netherlands and can be found in private, public and corporate collections. Her paintings are featured in Carte Blanche, Vol.2: PAINTING, a resource book of contemporary Canadian painters. In 2010, she was shortlisted for the Marmite Prize for Painting and recently received a Canada Council Travel Grant for participating in the curated group exhibition entitled Stopping by Woods at Toronto’s Harbourfront centre.

Alongside ongoing solo projects, Wittenbols is currently working towards a group exhibition together with two other artists and the curator from Suns & Stars Exhibitions. Still in the research phase, this project involves making work inspired by the writings of the 16th-century German mystic and theologian Jacob Boehme.

Wittenbols freelances for Urban Resort, a non-profit organisation, which realizes affordable studios for artists, cultural workers, and social initiatives by transforming existing/temporary buildings and spaces in Amsterdam. More information:


Born in 2007. Lives and works in London, UK and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Solo Exhibitions
2014 popUP & popOFF, flutter_, London, UK.
2012 A Plotted Affair, A Collaboration with Rochelle Fry, Five Years, London, UK.
2008 Take Off, Dokhuis Gallery, Amsterdam.

Groups Exhibitions
2016 Sexplosion, Mail & Female, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
2013 Tekenkabinet, Kunstsalon Assen, Assen, The Netherlands.
2013 Tekenkabinet, Museum Waterland, Purmerend, The Netherlands.
2013 Anonymous Drawings 2013, Galerie Nord/Kunstverein Tiergarten, Berlin, Germany.
2011 Drawn Together, Siena Art Institute, Siena, Italy.
2010 The Moment of Privacy Has Passed, The Usher Gallery, Lincoln, UK.
2010 CUBEOpen Exhibition, Centre for the Urban Built Environment, Manchester, UK.
2010 The Open West, The Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum and Summerfield Gallery, Pittville Studios, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK. (Catalogue)
2009 Personally Political, Contemporary Sensation: Drawing, Art House Tacheles New Gallery, Berlin, Germany. Curated by Barbara Fragogna. (Catalogue)
2008 VK4 Studios Opening Exhibition, Volkskrantgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

2016 Visualisation of a square in Amsterdam for repurposing as artist’s studios and cultural initiatives. St Urban Resort (Amsterdam)
2012 Drawing of the former Volkskrant building were stamped on tiles from the facade of the building for the purpose of gifts for former renters. St. Urban Resort (Amsterdam)

Events / Residencies / Workshops
2016 Ortelius Drew European Tour, Margate, UK.
2016 Talk DUS event, Volkshotel, Amsterdam. Presented work Mail & Female series in context of the Dutch word “geslacht” which has multiple meanings including gender, genitals and to slaughter (an animal).
2015 Selected to join Patty Morgan online art platform.
2015 Ortelius Drew kicks off European tour drawing in Madrid, Spain.
2012 Drawing workshop around development of King’s Cross area for 1st International Conference on Urban Sustainability and Resilience, University College London, London, UK.
2012 Big Draw at Battersea Pumphouse Gallery, London, UK.
2012 Late Night Live: Draw, Turner Contemporary, Margate, Kent, UK.
2012 SUPERNORMAL festival, Braziers Park, Ipsden, Oxfordshire, UK.
2010 Drawing DiverCITIES with the Bartlett School of Planning MSc. Urban Regeneration students and local community groups, London, UK.
2008 Stichting Kanaal 10, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Private collections in the UK and The Netherlands.

2016 Sexplosion Exhibition. Interview on MFE.TV, 27 May 2016.

2012 Cover image, PhaenEx, journal of existential and phenomenological theory and culture, vol 7, no. 1 (spring/summer 2012).

2010 Walters, Sarah, review, “Hats of to Winners of Cube Open”, Going Out-What’s On Around Town, Metro, 30 November 2010. p 39.

Walters, Sarah, review, “Host of new art for the Open-minded”, M.E.N., CityLife, 26 November 2010. pp. 16-17.

Luzar, Robert, review, “The Open West 2010″, Interface, a-n 14 March 2010.

Fearns, Robert, Cluer Coleman, Lyn & Goodwin, Sarah. The Open West 2010. Cheltenham: University of Gloucestershire and Two Wood Press, February 2010. 43 pages [catalogue].

2009 Fragogna, Barbara, & Reiter, Martin. Personally Political – contemporary sensation: drawing. Berlin: Tacheles e.V., June 2009. 44 pages [catalogue].

2008 The Marmite Prize 2008. London: Susak Press, 2008. 180 pages [catalogue].

Ilga Leimanis
2004 Master of Arts, Concordia University, Montréal, Québec. Concentration: Art History and Painting
1999 Bachelor of Fine Arts (with distinction), Concordia University, Montréal. Concentration: Art History
1995 Bachelor of Fine Arts, Art Academy of Latvia, Riga, Latvia. Concentration: Painting

Doreen Wittenbols
2002 Master of Fine Arts, Concordia University, Montréal, Québec. Concentration: Painting
1997 A.O.C.A.D. Diploma with Honours, Ontario College of Art & Design, Toronto, Ontario. Concentration: Drawing & Painting


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