Sunday 24 February 2008

Scary Hair and Specs from the Sixties...etc.

By around the age of nine I realised that drawing was something I might be good at. And when the time came, I looked forward to classes in the special Art Room when I started at Balshaw's Grammar School ....
Imagine my disappointment when we were expected to spend the long years leading up to the GCE exams meticulously drawing Roman Lettering, designing wall papers (must get the 'drop' to match!) and, worse still, mastering the tedious intricacies of interlacing strapwork. Under-over-under-over-un...."whoops, I fell asleep!" Fortunately our art mistress, the magnificently but frighteningly moustached Miss Whewell retired after a couple of years.
We had a period of being taught by the obviously non-artistic - 'well, it's only Art, so we needn't rush getting someone trained in'. Eventually- happy days- Mr. May came into our lives. He was a rookie, he was naive, he was small and chubby-cheeked and we took the proverbial- but what an excellent teacher he was!
Life in the Art Room took on a new perspective- interesting, experimental, exciting yet instructional, and he even turned a blind eye to our pinching paper from the stockroom!
We drew and sculpted anything and everything- for once someone thought that Art was as important a subject as Science and the Classics, and our abilities were taken seriously .
What an important difference this made- it's a fact that we do better in those subjects where we're fond of the teacher.
Ralph May! What a sweetie! Where is he now??

Pictured here: Photo- Ann Davies, Mr. May, Susan Bennett, Caroline Johnson, Mary Hall, Susan Baxendale. Note boyfriends' initials on workshirts....
Veggie homework, May 1962
View of the artroom, 1964

Saturday 16 February 2008

To Market, To Market....

Trying to market one's work takes up so much valuable painting time!
Aidan O'Rourke (Manchester photographer of some note-see link) is setting up an online print gallery and I've been preparing work for this.
This means I have to get really high quality copies. I can scan the A4 pictures but my digital camera isn't smart enough for larger work. Which means I had to go to the Big City to have them scanned through a Huge Machine which accommodates Vast Pictures. Forty minutes journey and then had to leave them overnight and pick up the next day... tedious.
Pictures were put onto CDRom... when I looked at them at home, some had stripes on them- they're scanned by trundling through rollers. Nowt to be done, couldn't face the nightmare journey to the concrete desert of the ' zone artisanal' again, so they've been left out!
Another way to publicise my work has been by having postcards made. I've done lots of cityscapes of Manchester and found a cheap company to produce the cards- not much profit to be made, but they look really cute and I'm chuffed to know they're now on sale in the bookshop at Manchester's Cornerhouse.
My little images, standing patiently in the postcard rack, waiting for that famous Art Dealer to see them....!!

Sunday 10 February 2008

'Apples From The Teacher'

This weekend is my busy one of the month with two day-long workshops to tutor.
This time there was quite a lot of preparation involved as I had to trawl our home library, photocopy suitable images- AND research suitably tasty apples in the supermarket!
We had a day of contrasts- the morning was spent on an accurate observational study, and in the afternoon the freedom of the imagination was let loose on pen-and-ink (see pics)
One would think that the morning would be the more taxing of the options, but 'it ain't necessarily so!' Good drawing doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with inventiveness or inspiration, and the opposite is also true.
The greatest artists have both-I can't remember who, but a famous French artist said "Sans metier, il n'y a pas d'inspiration"........."without craftsmanship there is no inspiration".
Back to my constant cry of "Should always have a good grounding in basic skills..!"

Monday 4 February 2008

Fear of the Face

A portrait, and, indeed any figure study, is the most difficult subject to portray. It's easy enough to get away with drawing a tree with a branch too short- but we'd all know if I drew the life-model with legs of different lengths!
In portrait, the elements and proportions that amount to a recognisable individual have to be rendered most precisely- and I'm talking millimeters here. In my painting of Ruth and her baby, a very minute adjustment gave her mouth that "careful does it!" expression.
From our birth, the human face is an important aspect of our understanding, social skills and survival . The brain is well tuned to know if a person's recognisable from their 'likeness'.
I include an ' Easy-peasey Portrait- Astonish your Friends and Family!' class in my courses in the studio and at the chateau. We take the fear and panic out of " I can't draw noses!!" and learn to see the face in a calm, objective way as an arrangement of angles, shapes and simple tones. See photo.
Following on from my previous blog, photos can play an invaluable part in any portrait study. Of course, the best thing would be a subject who had time to sit whenever called upon, but this is an impossible scenario. Even the Queen's portrait painters resort to photos in between sittings. Thought- this must be one of the few times that Her Majesty is a subject!
Now and then, a client will ask for a 'surprise portrait' as a gift . For this, several good photos taken from different angles are best. Flash photography flattens features and a natural light source, perhaps to one side, is ideal.
Alastair Price used several fairly poor photos for the portrait of our friend's brother. Knowing him already was a good help, and anyone reading this who lives in our vicinity will recognise the kindly Dr Haouisee- the man with all the vowels to his name!