Wednesday 28 May 2008

Laydees who sketch

I'm having a pause from any bigger projects- I've a huge 'back catalogue!' - and I've been working as I please, regardless, footloose and fancy free, which is really what being an artist should be about.
Al's been practising English folk music spiced with a bit of punk- this with Gabrielle down on the Permaculture farm. I go along once a week when the weather's fine.
What delights! Pigs, chickens, sheep, veg plot, garden, meadows, big trees, barns........sitting in the sun sketching while sweet airs from fiddle and guitar float on the breeze.
And a few days ago 'twas our first Sketch Club Outing, a break-away faction of the Art Courses I run in Brittany. It's a way of ensuring we get some drawing and painting done between workshops- it's amazing how difficult it is to self-motivate and I'm hoping this will help us all. It's fun to be with others, too (no men yet!). Once a fortnight should work out well I think.
Many thanks to 'Hil and Phil ' for use of the courtyard... coffee, cake etc..
I'll be quiet for a couple of weeks now, I'm off to teach on a Painting Holiday in a chateau further to the South of France- see former blog for details. Will publish the resulting
oeuvres d'art -soon!

Friday 16 May 2008

Big Pictures for Small People

We had another Art session for the kiddywinks this week. While I had them mix colours in the kitchen, my accomplice Al organised each one in turn to draw their self-portrait in the room we use as a teaching studio.
At the last session, we'd taken photos of the children, and these were projected onto large sheets of paper, to give life-size figures .
Al used an overhead projector he'd seen a bloke put into a skip in Rennes... old habits die hard... waste not etc!
When the drawings were done, the colour mixing exercise came in useful for flesh tones- no, not just pink, thank you, but a blend of red, ochre, green and white. Colours for clothes and hair were mixed, too, which is always more appealing. Unmixed paints are often very raw and unsubtle.
It was interesting to note that all the kids tended just to draw the outline , apart from the face - until we pointed out that the bits like the lower edge of a T-shirt, neckline, folds and creases, trouser turn-ups -actually continued inside the contour.
Another thing we noticed was that there was a tendency to draw 'symbolic' features of the face- "I draw noses like
this" - not to follow exactly what was projected.
Also, when we're learning, we sometimes draw what we know is there, even if it isn't visible. A small child will depict a table as a rectangle with legs sticking out of each corner- because they know there are four legs, and we all had our dinner off it, so there has to be space for everybody.
This is something which also happens when adults are learning to draw. . and I'm no stranger myself to the disgraceful 'tilted table-top'!

Thank you for your pictures, Thibaud, Laurence, Matthieu and La P'tite Manon, who did a lovely collage.

Thursday 8 May 2008

Art School Revisited #1

The twentieth of September 1965- my first day at the lovely old building, the Harris School of Art . I was to study here for two fun-packed and hard-working years.
“Our class has ten in, the boys are horrible. We had Miss Harrison first. She is quite nice but a bit of a bag”
We were made to draw, draw, draw !
“…and we had Mr. Bates who talked about drawing and we drew awful objects-all geometric.”
“We just drew a polygon/sphere thing and it had to be really accurate- he never encourages either, he made me scrub out a whole part just at the end of the lesson”

Sometimes we were sent out to draw, we drew the back streets, the flats that were being built, the bridges on the river.
When it was rainy we drew under the covered market or in junk shops- and sometimes we joined the old men keeping warm in the Museum’s reading room, the cafes and the pubs.
“Mr. Bailey took us outside to sketch- houses as planes like the boxes we’d done. It was interesting. People kept coming to look…. and some horrible yobs.”
“We went in a fantastic junk shop-there was an old man who lived rough like Steptoe in the back and says we can sketch if we want to, so we will”
“ It was snowing. Mr Bates dumped me and Anna in a junk shop to sketch and the woman brought us coffee and biscuits, and the dog to look at us!”
I was late to college one day, and peeping round the door of the drawing room, could just see one of the boys blushing madly…. opened the door a little further and realised we were having our first life class. Our model was Mrs.Goldie, an impressive mountain of a woman whose various folds of flesh re-arranged themselves when she took her breaks. We had to frantically rub out the previous configurations and redraw the whole lot each time.
For two years we drew everything- from big construction sites to the tiniest detail:

“I drew a milk bottle with a knife in it all day, but it’s amazing how many things there are to see there. Mr Bailey says it’s a little world- and it is!”

And that’s still true, when we take time to look…
Images :
Harris School of Art ; " the boys we're horrible" ; David Bates ; Reading Room ; Back Street, Preston ; Mrs Goldie. ( All drawings Caroline Johnson 1965/66. )