FOLLOWING the success of his documentary The Eyes Of Orson Welles at Cannes Film Festival, director Mark Cousins is the adviser of a world exclusive exhibition of sketches, designs and drawings by Welles, which opens at Summerhall next month.

What has your role as exhibition adviser entailed?

ORSON Welles’s third daughter Beatrice has wanted to do a show of her father’s art for some time. I helped by finding the venue, organising the drawings and paintings into themes and writing some contextualising notes. Beatrice hopes that the exhibition will tour to other cities.

The exhibition came about after Beatrice Welles asked you if you’d make a film about her father. She showed you his drawings. When was that, and can you remember your reaction to them?

I MET Beatrice at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan. I’d seen some of the drawings before – a few have been published – but then went to her home in the Midwest, where she had many more. When I saw them they struck me as a kind of visual diary. They date from all times of his life and are more about family, love, travel and theatre than about cinema.

Is it true that Welles’s first love was for art but his father didn’t allow him to pursue it?

IT’S not quite true that Welles’s father blocked a career as an artist. Welles was highly indulged in his youth – spoilt, you could say – in that he was called a genius, taken around the globe with his father and given privileged access to the world of culture and ideas. Welles might indeed have been happier if he had been a painter, but that’s only because the tools of the painting trade are far more affordable than those of filmmaking. Welles lived at a time when film production was very expensive. The main reason there aren’t more Welles films is that there wasn’t more money for Welles films.

Was he a good artist, do you think?

I THINK he was. You can see him getting better. The drawings he did in Ireland in his teens are real improvements on the ones that survive from Genoa, but within a few years (still in his teens) we have sketches from Marrakesh which are very good indeed. His line got quicker, freer and more descriptive. In the exhibition in Summerhall we have quite a few of his Christmas cards. Some are conventionally drawn and coloured, but the later ones are rapid haikus – autobiographical, autumnal and boozy.

What did you learn about Welles in making your film?

BEFORE making this film, Welles for me was a hero, a colossus, a distant figure, almost a myth. But now that I’ve been to many of the places where he lived and worked, and now that I’ve heard many personal stories about him from Beatrice, he is closer and more human. I knew he was contradictory – modern and nostalgic, principled and not – but now his contradictions seem even more epic to me.

Does the exhibition give insight into Welles’s life?

YES. Through the drawings and paintings we see into his love life and his relationship with his wife Paola Mori. We see elements of his despair and frustration at not being able to complete projects. Most of all, I think we see an off-duty Welles, a man whose great mind was ticking over.

August 2 to September 23, Laboratory Gallery, Summerhall, Edinburgh, 11am to 5pm, free. Tel: 0131 560 1560. @markcousinsfilm