Cathy - The geometric background arrangement of mirrors was interesting but I felt I didn't have a large enough canvas,so as usual I just concentrated on the figure.I seemed to spend most of the first morning drawing and redrawing trying to fit the whole figure in satisfactorally before seeing sense and cropping it. Then it wasa question of light and shade,colour,how to tackle the luxuriant hair,how to portray the delicate features without making Belle appear doll- like.I think I failed there. But every sessionis a learning experiance. Looking round at evertbody elses work always makes me wish I was more adventurous in the way I apply the paint.I do appreciate having these longer sessions and I should use them to become more experimental.
Chris - There is something rotten in the state of T'Penmark. Much as I kept attempting to reassure myself, like Hamlet, that "all may yet be well", in my heart I knew that the initial drawing was wrong. So, at the eleventh hour, pen and ink went to work in an attempt at emergency surgery. Result: a bit of a dog's dinner. (No, not a Great Dane's). But at least it was an honest-to-goodness dog's dinner, an acknowledgment of it's own shortcomings in the foreshortenings department. I can live with that more easily than what it had become: an inherently flawed thing, over-embellished to prop up it's faults. The luxury of a whole weekend encouraged in me behaviour enjoyable but morally reprehensible. I loitered longer than I should by a dodgy brickwall and took foreplay with a mirror and the more obscure parts of easels to unreasonable lengths, whilst neglecting the principal objective of drawing the model correctly. But enjoyed it all immensely!
David - Very encouragingly Tom circled the area of the head with his finger and judged it "interesting". My Professor at College used to do that - but silently and puffing his fag ash all over it. It certainly focussed the critical faculties.
However, after previous unsatisfactory results, I had determined that over the two days I would NOT resolve the forms too early and try to keep the whole thing nice and open and loose. Belle was set a reclining pose which she sustained gamely over the two sessions. With a high-keyed top light the modelling of her body was very subtle in tone and colour which constantly modulated as the light changed. I thought that my strategy would suit these conditions. The first day went fine and I thought I was on track. Determined to keep it all open on the second day I took a palette knife slightly bigger than I would normally have used so as to keep the handling free to go about establishing the underlying structures. Alas, as my concentration lapsed so did the painting - drifting into a formless lack of definition. It would have been really nice to have had a further session to try to recover but nevertheless I found the whole experience very valuable - and "interesting". Next time ??
Dick - It was another of those "if I knew then what I know now" sort of a week-end. Poor initial vision of what I wanted to make, which I suppose is why at home I will paint the same subject several times as I explore the good and the bad before ever reaching anything I am even vaguely happy with. Started on Saturday with acrylics and turned to oils on Sunday - a compromise which seems OK for these two day sessions, but should have had the courage to re-design on Saturday lunchtime. Started too small and too literal. Guided by Tom I got a bit looser, but certainly not at all dynamic. End result dull and flat, not very satisfactory, but not a cause for total despair. As usual, would have happily swapped the product with several of my fellow Redbrickers: in particular, Hayden's figure really owns the space (and what a hand!) and Sandra's vital image is brilliant, in fact all had something to envy. All in all, a good 2 days in the usual great company, just trying to get better.
Hadyn - What a great experience, my first double day, so much time,where did it all go. Our model, Belle held her difficult pose throughout and I thank her for forsaking her ghd's for the weekend.We are all lucky to have such fantastic studio to work in and finally thanks to Tom and Tony for organising the event.
Ian - I loved the longer timescale within which to 'get on' especially with the opportunity that goes with it of working in oil paint. It was a good learning experience, hopefully leading to personal improvement in technique and decision making and, I have to add, thoroughly enjoyable. The longer working period allows one to ride through disappointing moments.Having no control over the lighting does provide an additional challenge: do I change the painting to follow the weather changes, or do I rely on my memory of what has gone before?
Patrick - My intention was to spend the first day painting a loose representation of the figure and then on day two experiment with deconstructing the form. Unfortunately about one hour in to the session I realised this wasn't going to happen. My key mistake was not to check I had sufficient acrylic paint earlier in the week, the lack of which forced me to work in oils from the outset and apart from a promising initial composition the whole weekend was a desperate struggle. An unfortunate choice of viewpoint didn't help but to use a chess analogy, I never really recovered from a bad opening move. Props to model Belle and my fellow painters.
Sandra - I began with the challenge of a long narrow canvas which already initiated an image in my head. Unfortunately the image was not fully formed and only allowed me the briefest of glimpses as if through an opaque glass. It was abstract and elongated and eventually unobtainable. So I struggled with the paint and palette knives and strove to reach somewhere near that elusive image and produced a painting that I was not totally disappointed in, BUT, and it is a big BUT, I know that really I chickened out. When the painting started to veer away from the direction of the image in my head I could have been really courageous and distorted the paint by dragging or tonking or any other means and then worked on the abstract shapes still referring to the model. But Hey; Lack-a-day! I shall one day fasten my wotsits to the mast (or whatever the saying is).
Great week end doing what I love most among some of my very favourite people and thanks to Belle our model, there can be no pose held for such a long space of time that can ever be comfortable. How dare I say that my feet were aching, and thanks to Tony and Tom for organising it.
Sue - I decided to do the whole figure seeing as it was a 2-day affair. Day one went pretty well and I managed to get the the figure painted in and some bits of the background (that flipping background full of paint pots, mirrors, plastic pots, blinds, deck chairs and all sorts of art materials/props/paraphenalia). Belle looked pretty on my painting but I realised the poor woman had no neck! Her head was rammed definitively into her shoulders! Thus, I returned on Sunday to "sort it out". I rubbed her head out and redrew her. Wow, I never thought redrawing something would take so many attempts and so long! The poor woman had turned into Mystic Meg waiting for some omen to take place! After several attempts and many rubbings out I did manage to make her look plausible but sadly there was no chance of a resemblance. Sorry Belle, I hope you don't take it heart that I couldn't portray your natural beauty.Going back to the background, I got pretty fed up of trying to paint what was there and just whacked in some green ("pure green" as Percy from Blackadder would call it) and all of a sudden my composition improved immensley. I think it was that that helped me continue with the face and neck. I struggled with the hand on her leg as it was foreshortened from where I was sitting. I think I coped pretty well with the other hand but neither was easy. So an uphill task for me as usual when painting in oils but a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed nevertheless. Roll on the next 2-dayer.
Tony - Having a full weekend with a model is a great luxury, a chance to, hopefully, produce a substantial piece of work. This weekend, having learnt from previous experience, I chose to work on a very modest scale, hoping to produce a detailed painting with some finesse. For me the big brushes can stay in the other room. Though I love the work of Auerbach, De Kooning et al, I have no ambition to emulate them - it's just not me. The whole debate about big, swashbuckling, gestural painting v detailed, close observation is a non-debate - the great appeal of the arts generally is the fact that everything is open to individual interpretation and response, and it is reasonable to appreciate and love contrasting approaches.
Beginning this weekend I couldn't help thinking about Benjamin Sullivan's "All Souls Triptych" which some of us saw in Oxford recently. I was hoping to get some of the richness of detail and the richness of paint/colour handling evident in so much of Ben's work. I'm sad to say that I didn't even come close. It was premier league v pub player all over again! But I have learnt a lot and think I know what I need to do to improve:-
1. I need to get better control of the lighting which is crucial. Our big studio is difficult to control. With us it's all or nothing, especially if we have ten or more of us working together. A more intimate space would definitely help. Maybe we could organize some sessions where we limit numbers to just 4 or 5 max and close down the space?
2. I need to get even closer to the model, particularly as the painting progresses. I met the artist Carl Randall earlier this year and he told me about his experience of being painted by Ishbel Myerscough. He said she began the painting about 10 feet away from him and painted him completely hairless, bald as a coot. As the painting progressed she closed in on him, eventually ending up practically touching noses! The last thing she did was paint his hair.
3. I need to develop my palette and use of colour. I think I'm okay at seeing a colour and mixing a close equivalent, but as a painter I think you need to be able to do much more than that. It has to be more finessed, richer, more lush but at the same time more subtle. A very difficult balancing act to pull off.
That should keep me going for the next ten years at least! Thank you to everyone who joined us this weekend. It's always a great pleasure to spend time with such a lovely group of friends. And huge thanks to Belle, our lovely model. We should never underestimate the discomfort our models endure in order that we can all get on with our work, and it's great to work with models like Belle who understand what we're all trying to do and do their utmost to help us succeed. Cheers!
Joanne - The opportunity arose unexpectedly for me as someone had dropped out and I responded to an email from Tony two days before the event to go on the life drawing weekend. I spent Friday night with a pair of pliers and my tubes of oil paints getting the tops to come off. I'm not a 'painter' - I always draw. However, I have 'dabbled' in the past and here was the ideal opportunity to fulfill my desire to get cracking. Presented with a beautiful model and a wonderful pose, how could anyone not be inspired? I began safely by drawing and trying to get the composition planned on paper. When I set up my board and paints I actually felt daunted. How to begin? The whole weekend became a trial and error, learning process of applying and mixing paint. But it was a most enjoyable experiment. 'Fellow painters' were encouraging in their comments and I learnt a lot from looking at other peoples work and techniques. Thankyou Tony and Tom for organising and thankyou Belle for posing so wonderfully and for so long.