CHRIS - A young woman with a prematurely arthritic right knee daydreams contendedly whilst a zeppelin explodes just above her head. The plan was to make use of the time to depict model and studio environment as a whole entity. The first day's laboured line drawing required Frankensteinian action to inject life into it if it were not to degenerate into mere "colouring-in" (Brian Cox's term for all art work). However, playing fast and loose with watercolour and ink is a bit like diving from a high cliff: probably ill-advised, but at least you're promised a cheap thrill on your way to disaster, and occasionally you may even surface smiling. I think this time it may have been rather a rueful grin: "I'm not sure if I've got away with that or not, but I sure as hell enjoyed the experience!" Must add to Tom's thanks to Fiona, who yet again modelled for us superbly. Looking back, nearly all my best work done at Redbrick, in a variety of forms has featured her. I'm sure this must be true for several of us.
DAVID - I must admit that for me the session was a great disappointment. The subject was such a wonderful opportunity to explore the light and colour on the form. When I saw it set up I immediately thought Bonnard would love this - I felt I could dissolve forms into a miasma of warm colour and light as he would have done. Unfortunately I am not Bonnard and the transformation process degenerated after the initial stage into a clumsy and uncoordinated botch-up. I think I heard Sandra say to Tom that she had come with an image in mind which got in the way of her actual response to the reality of the subject - or words to that effect. Anyway I prove the point when I lost confidence and reverted to a heavy handed assault which did not do justice to the model or the conditions. My increasing sense of failure was aggravated by being in a position from which I could follow Tom's masterly treatment of the same motif that I had signally failed to grasp. Ah well - I suppose it's all experience.
JANE, MATI, SANDRA (one day)
SANDRA - I was only there for the day and so I decided to do a few sketches as usual in my sketchbooks and then a large piece on some A1 grey card. Maybe being there for the day was a bit of a cop out as it is much more challenging to work on a sustained piece of work and face the inevitable obstacles and problems of colour, composition and narrative. It is in this way one becomes involved and in the painting itself as well as the model, whereas producing sketchy ‘unfinished’ pieces does convey something of the ethereal and transient nature of the presence of the model. It almost always succeeds in that respect; however it lacks the weight of a longer more applied work.
SUE D-Y -As usual I jumped straight in and started painting Fiona and only remembered afterwards advice from Tom in the past about planning what I hoped to get from the activity. As a result I wasn't in control and let the painting happen. Not sure whether this kind of intuitive approach works because then I'm trapped into trying to paint a whole figure or what will fit on my surface and don't have a particular intention as to what I want to focus on and what I should leave out. Also I've come to realise that working without a conscious pan of action means that i don't get to finish the painting in the time given, unlike Chris who produced a really interesting picture that tells a story and it works as a 'finished' painting. His choice of colour was inspired and holds the painting together, altho' we all seem to have noticed how the shadows reflected a purple tone and I wish I'd had the confidence to go for greater contrast with the darks and lights as Tom has done. But I need also to restrain myself with the use of white for light and to mix light tones with more subtlety and more acute observation. As David says, "it's all experience" - so will try to remember my reflections for next time.
TOM - I've always intended to do a life size painting of Fiona and so I thought this might be a good opportunity to start it from life as opposed to photographs. I had a good weekend, the painting progressed far more than I expected so by the end I was a bit confused, not sure what to do next. I know it needs more work but the basics are in place so at least now I can reflect on it for awhile before I end up painting over it (my usual stupid trick). Thanks Fiona for being such a professional model, I found the whole weekend inspiring and although I was tired, painting so big was such good fun.
TONY - I don't know if Russell shares this feeling, but since the Sky Arts experience earlier in the year I have seen all of our full-day life drawing sessions as reflections of that fateful day in May. I'm already thinking about and preparing for next year's assault and, with reckless ambition, saw this weekend as a second round rehearsal! My competitive streak, which may well be based on delusion, is nonetheless irrepressible.
This weekend I decided that I needed to work on a larger scale than I have done recently, though nothing like the scale of Tom's piece. I always enjoy working with Fiona, who seems so effortlessly to settle into the most lovely, graceful poses. This weekend was no exception, so thanks Fi for working hard to inspire us all to produce something worthwhile. In summary here's a quote from Lucien Freud, "I am only interested in painting the actual person, in doing a painting of them, not in using them to some ulterior end of art". Amen.
The life room at Redbrick is an exceptional space. I go to other life drawing groups which offer different challenges like the thirty, one-minute poses, or the four short poses, but the Redbrick experience is unique. It feels more like a congregation, and I’m not religious. It’s just I find a quiet inspiration in the feeling of mutual respect, shared interests, humility and the kind of fellowship that prevail. The presence of David Mace’s modest and inspiring retrospective and Sandra’s pop-up harvest festival in the background last Thursday aptly illustrate this atmosphere. But, however much I consciously appreciate it all, I didn’t realise how much I had begun to take it for granted until something occurred this Thursday to unsettle the dynamic of the group.
This is the first time I have been asked to write the blog. Our words, like our paintings, have to strive to be as honest as we can make them or what is the point? We all reflect from time to time on the relationship between the artist and the model. Only last week Tom suggested Steven had found his muse in Joseph. Then we have the recent references to Auerbach, who has painted the same three people over and over again. Each week another human being agrees to offer themselves naked to the intensity of our gaze for hours at a time. I know we pay our models, but nevertheless it seems that an act of both huge generosity and consummate skill is taking place. As such I always feel it’s a real privilege to draw or paint from life. The conventions around the model stem from deep respect for another’s humanity and the recognition of the model’s professionalism and their potential vulnerability. We are rightly mindful and protective of those factors.
Am I right in thinking on Redbrick Thursdays we don’t use props? Any narrative in our paintings comes entirely from within our own imaginations and there is a great freedom in that. This week Lynne Lee posed for us in her signature red mules; the mirror was positioned to reflect the lovely line of her back (Ian’s eye was drawn to this) and she was sitting on her robe. The overall effect was mildly suggestive of a woman caught in her dressing room and as such had echoes of Degas, including the element of voyeurism that some feminist critics have objected to. (Not me, I really rate him!)
I think many of our paintings and drawings this week reflect an even greater struggle than usual to find meanings and marks – however fabulous some of the marks are. Much of the work seems to pose a question – what can our model be thinking about? Whatever the problem, it seems Anne has resolved it in her bold, uncompromising painting. But Roger S and Sumi’s paintings convey to me that their respective narratives are full of doubts and uncertainties.
We perceive paintings very subjectively, however objectively we try to look. Equally we paint or draw what we see filtered through our own individual sensibilities. Last Thursday my sensibility was clouded by irritation. This small and negative emotion is evident in my painting.
I am reminded of an occasion in a life room several years ago when the model, a middle-aged man, fainted. Some people carried on drawing without a pause, some called an ambulance, some sighed loudly with frustration; and someone, opportunistically, did a series of small sketches with the paramedic in attendance. The point of this anecdote is that when something unexpected is introduced into the life room the session becomes a drama rather than an event and this can be very distracting. On Thursday I found that the presence of Lynne Lee’s partner as an on-looker was unsettling, and even more so after the break. If The Life Class was a sitcom the situation might have been hilarious, canoodling round the Kit-Kats with Tom giving his painting an elaborate blow dry in the background. But for me, Thursday evening is all about the painting in the context of respect for the model, and for the congregation.
by Jane Storr
Paintings and drawings by Anne, Haydn, Ian, Mati, Patrick, Roger H, Roger S, Sandra, Sue, Sumi, Tom, Tony and featured artist Jane.
I just love working from Joseph, I know it might seem a little unfair to say that but there is a good reason to voice it out loud and it comes down to one word......STRUCTURE. When a model has structure, or definition as we would have called it once, there is such a lot to explore and consider, all the better for being made easier because there are focal points, changes of direction and edges which we can use as reference points, helpful bolts we can anchor onto as we scale the problem. With structure we discover how the shapes all interlock, one dependant on the other, each curve nestling into another, a block balanced by an edge and so it goes. Stephen's lovely little drawing is a rythmic cascade of shapes and lines each supporting or flowing from the other, it's a perfect marriage of artist and model. The artist likes to isolate and explore the complex arrangement and interrelationship of parts whilst the model also likes to develop the arrangement and interrelationship of parts through exercise, both are adherents to the Principles of Structural Development. There is a kind of poetry in their symbiosis. In drawing terms, without doubt Stephen is a classicist, someone who 'emphasizes formal simplicity, balance, and controlled emotion'. His drawing is all about the beauty, harmony and progression of forms as they descend downwards, I think in Joseph, Stephen may well have found his muse.
What Steven has done elegantly for the whole body, I have tried to do and achieved clumsily with the head. Fat distinct slabs of oil paint lock together to create paradoxically both the delicacy of light (sorry Russell but we're back to Auerbach, yawn...) and the underlying architecture of the head. My forms don't flow harmoniously but clunk together like the gears of an old lorry which in one way I don't mind but it's crudity seems grossly unfair to the model.
Patrick has made another one of his fine drawings where the forms appear to sneak out. Thumbnail size the forms work, the light models the head effectively and the colours sit in the right place but the larger image shows a far more complex and subtle drawing than you might think. Shadows and lines wriggle and jink about restlessly as though uncertain of their position and role, it has all the appearance of a rapid sketch (a good one at that), reminiscent of the wonderful drawings of the now all but forgotten artist/illustrator Felix Topolski.
Felix Topolski drawings of Ivy Compton Burnett and John Betjamin
It's fascinating to see the drawings by Roger and Patrick alongside one another and consider that each had exactly the same amount of time, it's like a perfect comparison of Romanticism and Classicism. It might be worth reminding ourself of the differences between the two.
Classicism - 'a style based on the study of Greek and Roman models, characterized by emotional restraint and regularity of form.
Romanticism - 'values freedom, imagination and emotion over rationality'
It could be an interesting exercise to decide in which camp your work sits and more importantly why one and not the other. I suspect for most of us it won't be an either/or decision but something in-between or I could be wrong and find there are strong feelings in both camps. Finally Jane did the sensible thing and brought along a previous painting and added to that, now that's up-cycling at it's best. I think maybe one year I'll work on just four canvases all year alternating between them as the different models appear, so I end up with four richly worked paintings that contain the essence of all the sessions or maybe not as that will require the iron resolve of working over work you like. Hmmmm.....this clearly needs more thought.
TWO DAY LIFE DRAWING THIS WEEKEND and individual days are available! Let us know beforehand if you're attending - thanks!
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Fiona, Hadyn, Ian, Ivan, Jane, Mati, Patrick, Roger, Sue, Tom and featured artist Steven
It is very rare that I disagree with Tom, and right now, having re-read the piece on Frank Auerbach, I think that I fail to understand rather than disagree. This should not come as a surprise as I do realise that Auerbach is no coffee table artist, requiring a strong stomach and a will to work at his uncompromising images.
Tom generally executes a seamless transition from serious artworld player to friendly, approachable school art master; able and endlessly willing to shepherd his flock of disparate talents around the studio and it’s numerous materials and opportunities. He must, however, occasionally long for meaningful discourse at a level which none of us can satisfy. A lifetime spent painting, and learning, in the company of gifted individuals is the minimum qualification, and you can sense the excitement at the prospect of re-acquaintance with one of the chief protagonists of the past century, and a personal hero to boot.
Although I have been aware of Auerbach for many years, it is in the role of an amateur art lover and I have not gone out of my way to try to understand this difficult work, being too easily seduced by more literal, graphic art, evidenced by my own painting which is currently passing through a “comic book” phase. My natural inclination, and my professional training and practice is largely about the elimination of ambiguity, at least in the design process and construction of buildings. Whereas ambiguity in completed structures can be mildly, and briefly amusing, if ultimately embarrassing , the process of making buildings demands absolute certainty; every mark on a construction drawing must have a clear, unambiguous meaning, and that tends to be how I paint and , to a lesser extent, view others’ work. So it is that, within the realm of expressionist painting, I gravitate to Bacon‘s graphic, structured diagrams rather than Auerbach’s, apparently undisciplined and joyless accretions of paint. Please give proper attention to the word “apparently” here, for I can see that this is a very serious, long term pursuit of one man’s artistic objective, and I am content to defer to “the genuine article”. I do not feel the need to understand or appreciate everyone’s art equally, but I do have a problem in disregarding Auerbach’s use of heavy paint.
Accepting that I tend toward the myopic literal, it cannot be Auerbach’s intention that we should ignore the thick paint; it is not an accidental by-product of his painting process and must dominate perception of his work. I am prepared to believe that other, less obvious motives generate the paintings, but the means of expression is the paint and I assume that it is required to deliver the message. Tom’s work is equally determined by the paint, although far more accessible to my literal analysis, and I also know that underneath the painter is a fine draftsman. Perhaps this is Tom’s message ,which I have only partially registered; the paint is important eventually, but the drawings tell us more about the artist. But this is not the “typical” journey from exacting draftsman to freely expressive painting, of a Picasso or even a Hockney, because Auerbach’s drawings are contiguous with his paintings; in motion rather than resolved and fixed. I will take Tom’s advice to visit the show, and expect to struggle with most of the work, but I know now that I will be ambushed by the paint.
Yesterday’s life session, with the surprisingly tough Siobhan, showed no trace of the above difference, and was a particularly focussed affair. Eight paintings from ten artists demonstrated the unconscious range of techniques, from Tom and Bren’s liberal application of oil paint to my own parsimonious, watery acrylic, but the concentration and effort was common to all. The results are consistently interesting with huge pleasure to be taken from the individual expressions of a shared task. I particularly like Jane’s hard-worked figure, where no single feature is precisely resolved, but the whole is awkwardly human – the tension of a difficult pose.
Paintings and drawings by Bren, David, Jane, Mati, Nikki, Sue I, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Russell.
Frank Auerbach Reclining Head of Julia, 2011 indian ink on paper 57.8 x 75.6 cm
"To put down an ideogram of a table so that people will recognize it as a table is not the work of a painter, but to sense it for a moment as a magic carpet with a leg hanging down at each corner is the beginning of a painter's imagination."
Wriggle Room by Tom Wood
In 2015 there will be a Frank Auerbach retrospective at the Tate Gallery, for me this is momentous news, for my generation of artists, Auerbach was and is the real deal. As the Guardian newspaper describes him, he is 'the painter's painter' and whilst I have never wanted to emulate his work I have envied his single minded sincerity and industry, nothing has stood in the way of his pursuit of understanding and making paintings. As fashions have changed and the market has moved onto bigger and bigger monumental works sometimes on an industrial scale, Auerbach has had none of it, no shortcuts, no tricks, no flirtation with new materials, no self publicity, just domestic scale works in thick oil paint recording the people and scenes around him. There have been many imitators but none have captured the relentless sincerity and singularity of his vision. The works are not beautiful, some are downright ugly with great nasty accretions of black paint, the peaks and troughs appearing angry and random and yet within these works lies an honest struggle to use oil paint in all it's greasy, unco-operative slipperiness as the vehicle for some elemental truths. More than anything Auerbach speaks of time passing, each painting records a passage of time in whch the artist and the model have sat in a room colluding and trusting one another in the search for the elusive meaning of what it means to just be alive, to share this world with someone else, to breathe air together, to drift in the bubble of ones own thoughts only to be periodically dragged back into the reality of that space at that time. They are paintings that stand as signifiers of life in all it's visceral messiness.
The paintings are almost aggresively there, the first thing you notice is the great volume of paint, a ridiculous amount of paint to record something so fragile and tenuous as the presence of two people in a room. But the paint is not important, it's just an accretion, the by-product of the effort of looking and understanding. This is where imitators get it wrong, they see the paint and not the effort, their thick paint is a facile sign denoting effort without actual real industry. To see Auerbach at his clearest I think we need to study the drawings, here we can often see a patina of earlier abandoned efforts supporting calligraphic ciphers maybe denoting a nose or a mouth, these black scribbles occasionally coalesce into a recognisable face but at other times they never quite make it. I like these drawings best where the marks appear to have gone rogue, wriggled into their own territory, decided it's more fun to wander than stick to the plan. The drawings as the quote above suggests are the painter exerting his imagination, I desperately wish I had that skill, that confidence, that sangfroid which said, what the hell, lets dawdle awhile.
The adherence to truth when confronted by the real presence of a person is almost overwhelming, all those facts there for the recording, how can one turn away, it's seemingly impossible, perverse almost. But for me at least the truth lies elsewhere, it lies within. Each drawing is reminiscent of the garbled platitudes typical of when one person meets another. In the everyday world we have social codes to mediate these meetings, in the art room we evolve codes based on skills, knowledge, maybe precedent or even pleasure. I've written about the pleasure principle before, the glide of a pencil, the flow of a wet brush etc. Precedent is the stuff we've done before, knowledge which we've learnt , skills, well that goes without saying, these all govern what we do in the life room. Back to Auerbach, he has his model and all the other stuff, precedent in spades etc but each time he attempts to disregard the lot and try and find something elemental, truthful, even if it requires crude marks and hour upon hour of apparently fruitless scrawling, scratching and rubbing out. Eventually a few marks emerge that seem to summarize the person, or the time or the mood or the light something real and true is caught and the drawing ends. We can't all do it and probably nor should we but as a mere spectator I find it thrilling that in this increasingly vacuous age there is still someone so attached to the fundamental nature of art that nothing will stop them making it. When the Auerbach circus arrives , as no doubt it will, tickets will be bought, arts correspondents will pontificate, marketing people will gear up, but just remember that underneath all that dross is the art, the real deal, a man who has devoted his life to showing us how paint and charcoal can still tell us something perceptive and moving about the simple act of sharing time and space with someone else, ignore the thick paint it's not important, look at the life, the endeavour, the desire, the profound simple truth embodied in each and every work.
Paintings and drawings by Dick, Ian, Roger, Sandra, Steven, Sue D-Y, Sue, Tom and Tony
There are countless dreadful things happening around the world which really deserve our attention, but I feel obliged to take this, possibly final opportunity to comment before the impending Scottish Independence Referendum. I have a tenuous link between this huge public issue and my own relationship with Redbrick, which I hope will get me past the censor; more of that later.
I suspect that not many eligible Scottish voters read this blog, but I have little to say to them which has not already been repeated ad nauseum by the “no” campaign, save to wonder again why the English have been excluded from this process? So long as the probability remains strongly with the continuation of the Union, then we can enjoy the “debate” from outside the tent, and, with respect to the televised Salmond/Darling confrontations, from outside the country, although I hear that we are to be allowed to witness the next instalment. If, however, there is a “yes” majority, then we will have been shafted by the most incompetent governmental bungle of all time. Even with a “no” majority, the Scot’s win-win position will reward their civilised insurrection with greater autonomy.
I have no particular objection to “devo-max”, and one can hardly accuse the Scots of opportunism; they have steadfastly refused to support the Tories and can shortly expect to have three times their number of Conservative MPs in the Panda enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo. The Scots know on which side of the border their confectionery is battered, but they also know what their departure would mean for the English regions; without Scottish votes, Westminster could be blue for a long time. It is ironic that the success of the SNP has also weakened the Opposition and strengthened the metropolitan elite. And this is where the problem, and the solution, for Scotland and the regions is to be found, not in distasteful self-interest but in regional solidarity.
The Scots know where they stand, but the shortfall in opposition to unfair, London-centric funding, welfare and education, is in the English Shires, where the Tory government is supported by “aspirational” voters who’s faith is not rewarded regionally. This is not a party-political jibe, but a grade A fact obvious to anyone who visits the capital and marvels at the sheer quality and scale of the infrastructure. OK, Londoners moan about everything, and Japan, Germany and now most of the Far East are showing us how to do things, but it is clear that the English regions are subsidising metropolitan advantage way beyond the justifiable; witness the pathetic programme for HS2 whilst Crossrail is close to delivering another, state-of-the-art transport facility for London. Westminster, of whatever colour, must be made to give appropriate regard to the regions, and not just Scotland, where considerable autonomy already allows for local budgeting and the bones of a fairer society. This can only happen when the regional electorate, including the scots, manipulates the balance of power on a term basis. So my proposal to Scotland is to remain within the Union and, next year, to vote Labour with the English regions on the strength of appropriate manifesto undertakings, until such time as it may be necessary to remind government of these obligations once again.
My roughly parallel experience on loosening my ties with Redbrick has been similarly contentious, although self-rule was not an objective. Nor do I hanker for home rule for Yorkshire, irrespective of our outstanding successes at Olympic and Commonwealth Games, followed by the mad outpouring of regional energy around Le Tour. I imagine a fledgling Yorkshire, led by the usual, attention-seeking comedy rustics , rather than our more introspective intellectuals. Frying pans and fires.With respect to painting, my inclination, confirmed now by experience, is that joint venture is of huge importance, providing the flywheel momentum as the basis for spurts of individual creativity. The trick is to get the balance right.
Last evening, I returned to the life studio and surfed the wave of group concentration. Absence had certainly sharpened my appreciation of the positive ambience and my work has a little more natural flow in place of the recent calculated precision. Looking at the posted gallery, I also see more clearly than ever that, although this session did not produce any outstanding individual piece, the sense of “Fiona” is collectively nailed. Better Together!
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Chris, Dick, Ivan, Roger H, Roger S, Sandra, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Russell.
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. Its about learning how to dance in the rain" (Vivian Greene)
The above quotation caught my eye on a card in the gift shop of Manchester Art Gallery recently. It very much embodies one of my philosophies of life, along the lines of 'just do it', so I bought it. As it happens, at last Thursday's session at Redbrick, the stalwart few of us that attended were literally "waiting for the storm to pass" and whilst we ourselves may not have been dancing, our brushes, pencils and pastel sticks were certainly skittering, jiving and doodle-bugging over our various pieces of paper to the sound of 'raindrops keep falling on my head' - literally!
But apart from the raindrops a blissful tranquility seemed to hang in the air last Thursday night, not even disturbed by the hum of a fan as there has been on previous more sultry nights. Speaking personally, this is what I love about Redbrick, for within that silence there is the richness of joint endeavour and, like a group meditation session, the sum of the whole is definitely deeper than the individual parts.
On the radio recently I heard Sir Ken Robinson, well known speaker and advisor on the arts in education, describe creativity as
"a conversation between your ambition and ability"
So, within the apparent tranquility of Redbrick I rather suspect there were a great many conversations taking place as many of us struggled to get our ability to live up to our ambition. I know I certainly was. So if a little humming noise could be heard coming from behind my easel it was me trying to 'dance' in my own personal storm of artistic ineptitude. But I guess we have all been there from time to time and one cannot appreciate the artistic highs when they happen without also succumbing to the lows.
However, certain others amongst us were certainly dancing a merry fandango and impressing greatly us with their foot-stomping, dos-e-do-ing, moonwalking, cha cha cha-ing, salsa, high kicks and effortless walzing. Featured artist Frank has certainly been hiding his life drawing talent under one of Redbrick's many rain buckets up till now and produced not one but two fine portaits. Newcomer Matthew also went for quantity, also producing two drawings but without sacrificing quality, he made a fine entry onto the Redbrick dance floor. For me, the prize for the best likeness went to Sue D-Y and the best 'back of head' portrait to Hadyn. Long may the Redbrick dance go on!
"Everyone wants happiness
No one wants pain
But you can't have a rainbow
Without a little rain"
Keep dancing guys!
by Catherine Morris
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Catherine, Frank (1&2), Hadyn, Matthew (1&2), Sandra, Sue D-Y, Sue, Tom and Tony.
......so what becomes of all the little boys, who run away from home, well the world just keeps gettin' bigger, once you get out on your own, so here's to all the little boys, the sandman takes you where, you'll be sleepin' with a pillowman, on the nickel over there.....
I love poetry and even more I love poetry with music, but I especially like poetry that I don't understand where the rhythm and timbre of the words float like smoke through my brain. The sense that something matters and I feel enveloped with deep concern but for what I'm not sure. Listen to Tom Waits and I hope you'll see just what I mean. Because I'm a visual artist I live through metaphors and some metaphors are better than others, the gruff rasp of Tom Wait's voice suggests conviction, he could sing his shopping list and I for one would be fighting back tears.
Many of the life drawings we make are metaphors, they signify values above and beyond observation, they are trying to tell us something bigger, something more personal. The journey we take as artists involves an early phase of skills acquisition, it's a tool making phase leading to the expressive, communication phase. Once in this secondary phase our personalities start to have an influence, we play and experiment testing both our knowledge and our newly acquired skills, temperament takes over. Are we adventurous or cautious, assertive or passive, imaginative or literal, think of any two personality traits and you can apply them to the work done in the life room.
The metaphorical stage comes next when the work is a cipher, a portal to something else, a desire for freedom perhaps, an emotional connection with colour maybe, the need to create order and understand structure possibly. Auerbach calls it the 'search for significance', wherein I think he means that moment when the marks on the paper gain an equivalent importance to the presence of the person in the room, their weight becomes equal. I can see in Patrick's large drawings a similar search is in progress, I think Dick by different means is striving for the same moment. Patrick is looking to express an inner energy through forceful lines and deep black marks, Dick employs accuracy as his method wherein the paint through his objective scrutiny is transmuted into the creases and folds of the skin before him.
Roger uses a kind of of alchemical method whereby a deluge of water is splashed and poured onto the paper. To this watery flood he adds tints and washes, which flow and dissolve into one another to magically remind us of a figure. It could and infrequently does all fall apart but when the alchemy works as in the detail above, something special happens, like a lucky throw of the dice it tumbles into place. Roger uses the gambler's method of weighing odds, he's quick, mercurial, in and out, takes no prisoners and lots of risks, the paint is flicked and caressed onto the paper with minimum control so the final image appears sometimes like a lucky stain, a face in the clouds, a drifting smoke ring, even a metaphor. The little face, seen in the detail above is precious, all that life embodied in the few dabs of a wet brush, barely there and sadly destined to fade in bright light, only to eventually disappear entirely. It really is a metaphor and a profound one at that. All hail Roger, the Tom Waits of Redbrick Mill!
Finally we have the case of Helen's neck, a proud and forceful part of Helen but one damn difficult to draw and get right. The Brass Neck Prize for the Best Neck goes to Sue D-Y for a fine drawing above and beyond the neck and whilst we're making awards we must not forget Catherine. Presently in the Great Batley Bake Off, the audience have voted Catherine into the lead with her scrummy, Raspberry, Blueberry, Lime Drizzle cake however there is still time for other contestants to show off their skills and the good people of the Art Academy will be the judges as they waddle towards the final tasting. May the best cake win!