Nicolai Fechin (1881–1955) was a draughtsman of unparalleled sensitivity and control, for me his drawings rank amongst some of the greatest ever made. Here are some links, follow them and you can make up your own mind.
I love their skin, crazed as an old dish, their scent like freshly printed literature, herb pillows, denim gone soft in the wash; how they chop wood, take nostalgia trips to Greenham, lift bikes up steps, do weights, knit socks. I love the glimpse of private space between shirt and skin, slacks on firm hips from climbing in France. Women who drink Guinness and wear rainbow woollies from Brazil, and embrace other women; women whose positions on sex are as relaxed as armchairs; women whose exes are shelved in albums. They’ll grab you like cake, light your candles, lead you to believe, then smile, put on their cycle clips and leave.
I have been learning to paint with Tom for the past twelve months and have absorbed numerous useful and often essential lessons; many small skills, tricks and procedures, materials, sources, good habits and references. But the detail has been underpinned by a small number of guiding principles which, if respected, will deliver competence at the least.
One of these principles was reprised at Thursday afternoon’s tutorial; the beneficial effect of repeated building and destroying, to find the most meaningful expression, demonstrate that search and to achieve the richness of surface which will engage the viewer’s interest time after time. This is not a procedure which everyone chooses to show in their work – I think immediately of Tony and Ivan’s clean and precise drawings which distil the image to its essence, apparently without the sweaty business of getting there. But they have been through the same routine, albeit faintly, so that the evidence may be removed as work proceeds.
I tell you this, not because I feel that I have already achieved this particular level of understanding, but because I continue to ignore Tom’s , and now my own advice, based upon the past twelve month’s experience. I think that I can relate all of my significant improvements to this process of searching for the image amongst the rubble of previous, failed attempts, and have reached a stage whereby I think that I can judge the amount of destruction which will be required to reveal the objective. It is this naïve over-confidence which continues to limit progress. Without Tom insisting that more destruction and rebuilding is necessary, I take the shortcut to mediocrity whilst others, Sandra for instance, are still out on the mountain, not even thinking about home. Yesterday was a harsh reminder of this basic truth.
In the afternoon, Tom toured the studio, urging me on each visit to add more layers of activity to my painting before allowing the image, which we both could see coming, to materialise. I followed the advice and was rewarded with an almost finished piece which I think demonstrates further progress. You would imagine that this experience would set me up nicely for the evening life session - I had even referred Tom to Jane Hansford, a new-to-me artist with a website full of enviably loose life drawings and paintings – but how quickly do we forget the basis of our successes, and I really struggled to salvage anything worthwhile from a very poor first half effort. The best I can say is that I recognised the error of approach but did not take my own advice soon enough. I seem to have written this same blog on more than one occasion; perhaps this signifies the crucial importance, for me, of compliance with this particular advice.
Around me, many were working their particular seam of interest and producing another trademark image for the album, and there is no shame in refusing to wrestle the demons on a sweltering Thursday evening, but there was also evidence of Tom’s advice receiving attention, with spectacular results. Most obviously, the oil painting courses seem to have brought colour to the fore, although Patrick, an old boy of the afternoon school, produced a stunning, sculptural charcoal image where every mark counted. Sandra brought together weeks of enquiry into pattern and texture with a simple profile to create a very satisfying image, although I think her use of the Olympic rings stencil should have been disallowed. Still, there is no point being the teacher’s favourite if you cannot enjoy the occasional advantage.
Sue made a very good job of a difficult position to turn adversity into a richly coloured triumph, and Dick, more than anyone, illustrated the benefit of paying attention in class; the latest recruit to the combination of abstract ground and life study showed just how much can be achieved from a standing start at 2.00pm. Take my advice, Dick, and remember this day every time you pick up a brush.
I don’t know a number of last evening’s artists, but I do know that with Tom, Tony, the two Rogers, Steven, Sandra and Teresa, you have inspiring exponents of most media. Stay involved, learn from each other and , most importantly, heed your own advice.
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Ben, Cathy, Claire, Dick, Haydn, Ian, Merry, Patrick, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sandra, Steven, Sue, Teresa, Tom and Tony.
I like this painter's work a lot and this is a rare chance to see her actually working, it's an unusual technique but really effective in the way she combines strong drawing into her painting. She sort of reminds me of William Coldstream and Euan Uglow, here is a link to her website http://www.marybethmckenzie.com/
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. A really superb talk, I guarantee you will enjoy it.
Whenever we have a day out on the East coast I like to visit Hornsea Mere and photograph the waterfowl, the light yesterday was lovely, bright but not glaring with an afternoon warmth about it. Here are some of yesterday's shots.
What was all the hoo-hah about? Where were you? I remember a lot of people saying how they would love to have a session of short poses and when the great day arrives the turnout to say the least was, and I'll put this delicately, select. It was a great shame so many of you missed it as I for one had a bit of an epiphany, but first let's remind ourselves briefly of the arguments for and against short poses.
For - quick, spontaneous, a chance to warm up, the excitement of racing against the clock, more dynamic poses (this was the argument most vociferously heard), everything just faster and the implication being more exciting.
Against - Superficial, no opportunity to fully engage with problems, more chances of finishing the work, a more conducive atmosphere for deep thought and reflection, a chance to correct mistakes.
My name is Tom and I was a die-hard short pose sceptic. Short poses were (said in an acerbic, dismissive tone), superficial! They were the hiding place of the charlatan and flash harry, no serious artist would even contemplate the notion of short poses, the short pose was for (venomous tone, spat out), amateur's! And there you had it in a nutshell, for me the short pose was for superficial amateur's, but and this is an almighty big but, my prejudice had never really been tested. I was a short pose virgin of sorts having flirted with it, on the ill conceived date or two but never wholeheartedly consummated so I was the worst kind of bigot, an ill informed but convinced know it all. And you know what's coming next, in the great Hollywood tradition, I was shown the error of my ways and have subsequently been born again into the fold of short pose enthusiasts.
My epiphany started when the bell rang and the race began, the energy and focus of the short sprint meant nothing else mattered, pure intuition kicked in. However a word of caution at this point, preparation is the key, having a plan makes all the difference, visualizing outcomes also helps. So I had a plan, I had visualized, stretched and taken deep breaths, God forbid people were spared the spandex but spandex notwithstanding I was a lean, mean painting machine, poised and ready for the race ahead. This is an entirely different experience to the leisurely stroll of the long pose, this is a log flume of a ride, the roller-coaster of the art room, hold on and hope for the best as pure intuition, guile, energy and enthusiasm drag you through from one peak to a trough to a peak once more and at the end you stand breathless and exhilarated, speechless and amazed at your survival, shy smiles are shared and appreciative nods and for awhile you're robbed of the power of speech, you just look and gawp and gasp and sigh, it's over and what a ride it was, how brilliant and amazing was that last pose or was it the one before last how the muscles just popped out and the light caught those edges, it was brilliant we must do it again, I love short poses, wasn't Roger amaaazing!!!
Maybe I've exaggerated a touch, but it was good and just have a look at Sandra's first drawing to see what's possible or Tony's sheet of rapid sketches or Roger S's man on all fours, what a brilliant piece of economic summation, sometimes less really is more, honestly it really is, believe me I'm a Short Poser.
Paintings and drawings by (two images per artist except Tony) Hadyn, Ian, Peter, Roger H, Roger S, Sandra, Sue, Tom and Tony.
A little tip create an account and sign in first otherwise the video stops and asks you to do so before continuing.
The buffering is a little slow but it could be that I was watching it at peak time.
The still life painting is by Carl Dobsky an artist from San Francisco and the first painter featured in the video. In one clip you can see he has binoculars in his studio and to be honest I've been thinking of using a small pair for Life Drawing, I think I definitely will now.
What's the most common complaint in any life drawing session? It's the perennial moan about time running out, each session ends with the gasps of frustrated artist's, once more the clock has beaten them. Well I take a different view, the clock has saved them from themselves, the so called 'finished' drawing is often a corpse of a drawing, it has been pronounced well and truly dead. An incomplete drawing is a living, breathing, alive thing, it promises the future, it's optimistic, it's youthful and energetic not tired and fagged out. I celebrate the unfinished drawing as a great symbol of potential, the testament to what might have been and the promise of greatness within our grasp if only the clock hadn't conspired to interrupt our doubtless march to applause and universal acclaim. Damn that clock but also thank that clock.
Fine work and new faces always a welcome combination however Roger one of our longest serving inmates showed the way with a triumphant watercolor sans face. The lack of a face is a magnificent illustration of my earlier thoughts, this is a watercolour being made, the process revealed to all and yet that blasted clock snookered Roger whilst simultaneously throwing him a lifebelt, we don't need a face especially when the pose says it all and we have the wonderful flowers dancing and splashing across the surface. The energy and confidence in those few marks will sustain me for the rest of the week. Whilst I love life drawing, the challenge of such a monumental form as the human figure is without doubt, compelling, ocassionally the introduction of a pattern or the broken forms of nature as a counterpoint to the solemn solidity of flesh make for a welcome change. Roger shows how to do it where paradoxically the liveliest thing in the image is the dead flowers, he uses the opportunity of broken forms to animate the image, maybe even to express the suppressed life force of the static Sue. Thanks Roger for an inspiring piece of work.
The two day session in August should be interesting as the notion of 'finish' will definitely be an issue - I'm a serial offender in the over finishing of work. I seemed to have developed Compulsive Fettling Disorder with the clock as my only remedy so two days might see a lot of soul searching and nervous pencil sharpening. I might even have to distract myself with the essential task of organizing all my pastels in strict order of colour with tonal values taking precedence, whatever happens it will be an intriguing two days with our superb model, Sue.
Paintings and drawings by Cathy, Christopher, Ellie, Fiona, Ian, Ivan, Merry, Roger H, Sandra, Steven, Sue, Teresa, Tom , Tony and featured artist Roger.
Andre working on his painting on day three of the third and final Oil Painting Workshop. It's been an exhausting but rewarding three weeks. I've had the opportunity to work with some lovely people, share some ideas, and be a part in the emergence of some outstanding work, all of it good fun and rewarding, thank you all and well done to everyone.
Now for me it's back to those large garden paintings for a week in which I have to finish them and then it's onto a school to paint two large murals in a gym, a busy summer of work lies ahead.
Oil Paintings by Andre, Chris, Christopher, Ellie, Frank, Hilary, Ian S, Ian, Ivan, Judy, Kate, Kathy, Liz and Sue.