If I was stranded on a desert island and I could only have one companion than my Man Friday would be Chris M without a doubt. He seems to be a man who can knock up a stylish hat from a few scraps of cardboard, I daresay next week it will be a grass skirt fashioned from paper towels and sandals from old palettes, I like the cut of his jib. I also like his work because even when he gets it wrong it ends up right, the mistakes become amalgamated into a bigger scheme, a style (I hate that word) that is unmistakably his. It's a clever trick but in his case without cynicism or guile, the result of a sincere search for a form of elemental truth in the encounter of one man with another, back to Robinson Crusoe. Chris nibbles his way around the surface each subtle tone joining its neighbour in a doomed attempt to create a cohesive whole, with changing light and movement however small it becomes the butterfly effect, a subtle shift top right means an adjustment bottom left and so on. Chris labours like Sisyphus and is equally condemned to continue, but it's just as well completion is unnecessary. Jane thoughtfully pointed out, unfinished they have potential and our imagination completes them gloriously, finished we are locked out, mere spectators.
At Redbrick Mill we all survive on our own little island, there are no teachers, some prosper and others struggle for awhile at least but at each break time there is a chance to build a raft, to add one more piece by walking around and seeing what others are up to. I find these intervals stimulating, a half made work will always teach me more than the finished item especially when the maker is there and willing to recount their journey complete with tips and techniques. I like this method of learning, you take from it what you need but you also encounter surprises. Fiona's textured clay slabs remind me that mono-printing might be incorporated into the technique I'm presently exploring. Bren's suggestion of a third eye prompts me to consider developing a post life room opportunity to use projections, Russell forces me to re-consider my vertical habit and think again about the power of the horizontal division, all learning opportunities and routes to further advance the work, like Crusoe nothing is wasted.
In this age of nasty, class riven politics and divisive name calling I see a room full of 'strivers' with not a 'skiver' in sight, I see people trying to excel, people trying to push the boundaries of experience, skills and knowledge, people determined to 'give it a go' and for old lags like me the energy of those less weary is like a Sanotogen chaser (for young Ewan that was gobbledy gook). Steve, our esteemed model was this week transformed into the naked punter, not I hasten to add as a homage to the Grand National but more dreaming spires, wicker basket picnics, boaters and flowery chiffon, ah how the memories come flooding back, Christopher, Janey, Gerald and I finding ourselves a little squiffy and unable to finish our rather heated debate about the real meaning of Sontag's 'The Lure of the Fragment' so we settled it over a chilled Chablis and the finest caviar East of Smolensk, happy days. However not everyone saw Steve in this way, Ewan looked deep into Steve's soul and wrenched out the turmoil and confusion nestling there, his powerful angular drawing has a touch of neo-romantic angst. Bren, always good for a bit of angst has decided on a bit of gender confusion in beautifully made up lips but troubled cheeks like a distressed Quentin Crisp all of this created from the most exquisite and luscious of colours like the faded melancholy of old pansies. Russell has a good line in Magenta and Blue, they're singing his song, the finely observed and well wrought hand is offset against the pursed lips and reverse quiff reminiscent of the flick of a Mandarin Duck. Tony picks up the pursed lips theme as does the gladiatorial sculpture by Fiona complete with spear like paintbrush. Were Haydn and Ian working together, the Gilbert and George of the life room? Their paintings are uncannily alike and go for a softer, sweeter Steve, whereas Colin has created a strong colourful ferryman, a bundle of raw restless energy with vivid shadows, a really lively piece of work all fidgety and twitchy. In contrast Steven's Arcadian Classicism has beautiful shifts of tonal colour as each muscular shadow is lovingly recorded. Finally Joanne finds a kind of tranquility in the pose and the day as Steve quite unperturbed appears to meet his Man Friday on a sunlit beach, sporting his crown-less sunhat, baggy britches and sensible socks, at last Steve will be saved and made presentable even if his attire is cobbled from rags and cardboard, after all soon he won't be the only one, but let's not forget, We're all in this Together!
Our best wishes and get well soon to both Sandra and David we missed you both!
Paintings and drawings by Bren, Chris M, Chris, Colin, Ewan, Fiona, Gerry, Hadyn, Ian, Jane, Joanne, Russell, Steven, Tom and Tony.
Slight hiccup in the proceedings folks – am writing this on the back on an envelope from my hospital bed. Hopefully it is a recurrence of an old problem and I will be out soon. Have asked for my sketchbook and pencils, have taken a leaf out of John Bellany’s book and following his example am sketching my arm with a drip in and my hospital stockinged legs!
I have also asked for my book on Titian which I have been looking at this week. I am enthralled by his use of colour, composition, narrative and brush work technique.
Most enthralling I find are some of his portraits – the Popes, the Virgin Mary, Princes and Kings but particularly his self portraits of himself as an old man.
How did he manage to paint himself looking off at an angle – he must have had an arrangement of several mirrors – somehow he has captured the soulful look in his eyes and appears in contemplative mood gazing away into an unfocused distance. The painting is in many ways incomplete with the hands just indicated and little detail in background or clothing. The face is illuminated against the shades of blacks and browns of the background and his garments and just some highlights are abstractly picked out in white in the cotton and lace of his sleeves.
Nothing is overplayed and rules appear to be basically simple so how can I learn from them?
How can they inform my own life drawing and painting? I know that the eyes are the window to the soul and the position and attitude of the figure can give us an emotional content.
The secret is how do we illustrate and encode this message in the most subtle and least obvious way whilst balancing the emphasis discretely on each – the face versus the figure. I would like to concentrate on this aspect mostly using drawing in the Thursday evening sessions.
I have not seen this Thursday’s pictures on the web site yet but from the strolls round the studio on Thursday evening I could see that everyone has upped their game. All the charcoal and pencil drawings have a quiet self confident feel to them. Everyone is aiming at a higher target and using skills gained and strengthened by the frequency of doing it.
What struck me about the paintings was the individual colour palette chosen by each artist and how I would be able to identify the artist by that alone. Without the artist present I would be able to point out a Sue, an Ian, or a Jane.
Just as we have our own unique signature we have our own painting/drawing style – it’s a statement. I think of whom we are – yes we can come onto new methods, techniques and materials but I hope we still retain our own unique and personal imprint.
Well – back to drawing my bottle green legs! Courtesy of ‘Pretty Legs UK’!
by Sandra Cowper
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Catherine, Cathy, Chris, David, Hadyn, Ian, Jane, Janet, Roger, Sandra, Steven, Sue, Teresa, Tom and Tony.
Surely one of the basic pre-requisites of life drawing is to get the gender right and yet I'm sure I'm not the only one whose work goes through a 'transitional phase' especially when the gender specific clues of anatomical difference are not on display. My work has a graphic edge to it- not always welcome - which gives preference to the look of the young male, I'm good at heroic young men, sporting heroes, medal winners, that kind of thing. When I explained the gender flux of my work to our very female model Kay, she wasn't fazed at all but suggested maybe I'd seen beneath the shallow outer carapace of her mortal appearance to the heroic youth within, I felt a close affinity and sensed maybe she'd glimpsed my inner greyhound. We all carry that innermost identity and it's interesting, sometimes amusing, occasionally shocking when the person within breaches the outer skin. I like the phrase 'gender neutral' and so despite all the evidence to the contrary I'm clinging to it when my women become men and vice versa.
I've chosen a detail from Chris because it both captures a fair likeness of Kay and it demonstrates his individual and unique technique of combining ink, watercolour and pencil crayon in equal measure. At an earlier stage Chris had a lovely delicate sepia ink drawing made of hesitant dots, dashes and marks suggesting the emergence of a likeness, sufficient to say this was a specific person but not quite enough to pin it down. Reminiscent of a Bernard Dunstan or even a slight Giacometti, a touch of Sickert edging towards our very own Chris Murray, the master of the tentative touch. I often enjoy watching Chris's work develop, as ink lines, crayon shading and watercolour washes battle it out, usually ending up with a fragile peace in which all three seem to accept their place.
It's been interesting watching David's work grow in confidence, now the signature seems to be working in the same way as it does in a Chinese or Japanese painting, a graphic mark that functions as a kind of 'compositional lock' holding the image together. I used to envy Chinese black ink drawings which ended with lovely red signature seals, without the seals they seemed somehow incomplete, I think David feels intuitively the same about his signature. Signing work generally is an interesting issue for an artist, without a signature, the buyer feels the work is somehow inauthentic and yet a signature can if not done carefully damage the visual integrity of the image. Signing on the back seems the answer but for some people this is not enough, in my mind signing work is one of those romantic remnants such as artists in garrets and berets, a throwback to another age. My nemesis the highly successful American cartoon artist, Tom Wood signs everything with a massive flourish so I might just adopt his signature and see if I can make a bob or two riding on his bandwagon.
Roger H graced us with an outstanding drawing before he's once more on tour, Cathy is quietly on a roll producing a very good piece and continuing where she left off from her excellent two day painting, Haydn's drawings grow in confidence and authority week on week, Russell has a lovely Rothkoesque background of rusty red and smoky yellow, Sue makes orange, pink, blue and yellow combine when in theory they should look dreadful and Janet has created a drawing that seems to combine influences from thirties England, maybe even Bloomsbury and quattrocento Italy. As usual it's a lucky dip bag but an interesting one and that can only be good.
Paintings and drawings by Cathy, Chris, David, Hadyn, Ian, Ivan, Janet, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sandra, Sue, Tom, Tony.
Joseph in a painting by Ian
THINK POTATO by Russell Lumb
Here on the East Coast, the colony of famous artists has, this week, run into trouble, or a crate of potatoes in Tom’s case. Fortunately, this altercation did not require a frantic mercy dash to Scarborough A+E, but Andrew Silk from Bridlington’s 49 fish and chip restaurant was quickly on the scene to retrieve the injured Maris Pipers. Double-cooked in very hot beef dripping they will still achieve their life’s mission. However, Tom’s car is not yet returned to rude health, causing him to miss Redbrick afternoon tutorial and the evening life session. He would be gratified to know that he was in our thoughts all afternoon as we struggled to squeeze the last potato-related joke out of the situation; it’s in such times that one appreciates the enormous flexibility of our language and its ability to entertain with double meaning.
The other big news of the week, pushed onto page two by the potato incident, was the Spring Budget. Both of these events have lessons for the wary liferoom student; the importance of anticipation and a willingness to reassess the basic assumptions of a planned course of action. Tom will protest that he could not be expected to anticipate tuber turmoil around the bend, but this is the nature of all coming problems; we cannot know the details in advance but can still make reasonable provision. This situation is regularly exemplified at Redbrick by the missing extremities as artists fail to anticipate the edge of the surface. It may be a subconscious means of avoiding those dreadfully difficult hands and feet, or even a wilful demonstration of connected life beyond the confines of the view, but it is usually a simple failure to plan ahead. I know that this brings us into the fraught area of design versus intuition but I have seen, and perpetrated, enough potentially good works spoiled by the clearly unintentional loss of a vital body part. My painting last evening falls into the second category whereby I chose the top edge of Tom’s bull painting as the limit of my view, thereby excluding Joseph’s cranium, and, through preferred scale, his legs. So I do not argue for the inclusion of the entire sitter, but for the time spent in considering the options and in setting out the image quickly to establish the full scope of the work. There is little worse than the late realisation of such a setting-out gaffe, when much of the piece has already been worked-up to a near finish.
This situation is currently analogous to the nation’s dire economic status; we are a long way down the chancellor’s chosen route to recovery, ignoring warning signs and dismissing the satnav advice on the basis of gut feeling and male pigheadedness. We should not be surprised if the road drops off the edge of the map, but party political obduracy will not allow the coalition of common sense.
Life study does not carry such fearful consequences, but we are equally prepared to ignore the obvious, and to compound an initial error of judgement with detail work that only serves to highlight the mistake. Once again, this is not always wrong, as intensity and expression can often trump accuracy, but those artists are seeking something else and are unlikely to find themselves in that position. For the majority, whether it be geometry, colour, tone, composition or whatever, the ability to look for, recognise and correct error is crucial to progress. I share the, not uncommon, taste for demonstrative correction, where the visible signs of struggle confer legitimacy on a piece and celebrate the discovery of the “correct” line or tone. This fault is so clearly seen in others, but so very difficult to accept in our own work. I do hope that Mr Osborne is reading this blog?
The gallery includes work that, variously, supports and disproves the above. New-to-me model Joseph was dangerously long but at least his arms position was compact, resulting in a very low foot count. But the rest of him was terrific! I don’t think that my youth was ever so gilded – and such a pleasant boy! Chris best captures the youthful freshness, although the likeness to Prince William could get him into trouble. Steven, the forward –thinker par excellence, naturally sits the entire figure on the sheet, but then loses a foot; probably a time thing. Tony gives us the colossus of Batley, rendered in Biro, but my favourite is Ian’s idiosyncratic naked coal miner wearing heavy, leather working gauntlets; anticipating the unexpected can be rewarding.
Finally, I cannot fail to mention a sighting of our own flame-haired temptress, Anne, on last night’s Question Time from York. She had not, to my knowledge, requested to be excused from the life class and must therefore face the wrath of Tom and Tony (and Tom is not in a good mood) for staying out so late and for being in the same room as Michael Gove.
Painting and drawings by Barry, Carol, Chris, David, Hadyn, Janet, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sandra, Steven, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Ian.
Carol in watercolour by Roger
We've worked with a number of pregnant women and each time it's a challenge because the shapes we're used to looking at are all somehow different. Obviously there are more curves, you expect that but the angles are all different and the forms don't quite join up in the way you expect them, proportions look suspect and despite careful measuring it doesn't look quite right. Then of course the model has to be comfortable and inevitably there is the ocassional shift and shuffle as the baby stretches and kicks. Carol, our mother to be and excellent model was superb, movement to a minimum, eyes closed in restful meditation she was a picture of contented motherhood. I think the tranquil aura emanating from her repose seeped into the group, we were all silent, thoughtful, respectful and engrossed in the task at hand, whilst it wasn't quite a whale song moment, it could have been.
Tony captured the moment beautifully in his sensitive pencil drawing as did Chris in his quiet little study of a mother to be at peace with herself, it's a lovely piece and a tour de force of how to use liquid mediums in a graphic way. Roger the master of the speedy watercolour created two fine studies both supported by well observed drawings that allow the watercolour to be expressive without losing structure. I try and do the same thing with emulsion paint and chalk pastels, in theory the paint emphasizes structure as the pastel is allowed to roam free and become expressive, but it never quite works as my innate need for order veers everything towards the graphic. It's an unsatisfying compromise, Francis Bacon said 'only extremes are interesting', and it is true when you see Ivan's taut linear drawings where not an ounce of fatty indulgence is allowed, rarely have I seen such lean drawings and yet they work. They are a kind of admonition, an ascetic scourge to all who stray from the righteous path of the blessed pencil. I've been listening to John Bunyan's 'Pigrim's Progress' on the radio and I suspect Ivan would be the character 'No Nonsense' accompanied by his side kick, 'Truth Seeker' better known as Steven. We shall see how many they persuade to join them on their journey.
Paintings and drawings by Chris, Hadyn, Ian, Ivan, Joe, Patrick, Russell, Sandra, Steven, Tom, Tony and featured artist Roger.
Paintings and drawings by
Twelve hours gives enough time to be more relaxed about a piece of work.I spent
the first day 'drawing with paint' and I had intended continuing with this
linear approach but the paint took over on Sunday. However, I feel that at least
for once I didn't wreck it.One problem I always have with painting is what to
do with the background. I can't cope with complicated backgrounds, prefering to
concentrate on the figure, whereas other people produce work where the figure is
integrated into a coherent whole, producing a picture as opposed to a life
drawing. Looking at other peoples'responses is always fascinating and inspiring.
An enjoyable and productive weekend, thanks Tom and Tony.
We had some good conversations around the core business of painting the model for 12 hours. Montaigne, Cezanne, Pollock; about how painting the model might be about something more than an exercise in objective study; that what we make could say something about the confluence of life stories presented by the group, for that day, working from the model. Also about practical technical matters and maybe just a bit of banter around the lunch table. As to that 'core business' . I'm thinking about 'finish' and when to stop. I crave an objective study with the figure sympathetically rendered as a person, preferably as an identifyable individual; 'Jaz' in this instance; distinctive within the environment but very much naturally connected to it as a human being. This may be 'straight hair/curly hair 'syndrome i.e. not being able to appreciate what you've got, but I'm wary of the subjective painterly approach which probably comes most naturally to me. In the best painting ther isn't two things going on: free expression verses cool analysis; there's just one painting that works.
It was good to have a model who was new to me - so no preconceptions. Having two whole days I was determined this time (as always) to keep the treatment open and 'unfinished' as long as possible. I also worked on a larger scale than in the one-day sessions to better set the model within the visual context. So did it work out? Well the result was certainly still in a pretty raw state when time was up, but I didn't mind that since I had resisted the temptation to start fiddling with the detail - even (to my surprise) putting on the paint with my fingers which I haven't done since infant school. Also I excluded colour which certainly ensured a rather crude but very direct encounter with the physical presence of Jaz who was an excellent model. So have I broken the barrier? Perhaps! I hope!
P.S. The range of results in the group was great and I particularly envied Steven's painting which I thought was a minor masterpiece of perception in its economy and control of form.
I had a very clear perspective of how my two day painting would look. Using a canvas I had prepared before featuring a red wall I visualised Jaz standing in front of the wall and the exposed sides of wall covered in graffiti. Got in early to get a good spot
The first change! Jaz behind the wall with arm dangling over it. At least I only have to do a portrait,arm and hand and I need to practice hands. Decided to put a fence behind him (as you do),thought about an allotment!!. Visions of Kes.
The afternoon session went really well especially after the Town beat Leeds 2-1. Saving the graffiti till tomorrow.
Sunday. Had a lie in, breakfast in bed, newspapers to read and the eye pad to look for graffiti samples. Very civilised, Pauline happy until the grandson stormed in, newspapers thrown on floor demanding to change the graffiti on the I-pad to Toby the bear. Time to get up and head for Batley
Jaz looks grey so I try to blend orange onto parts of his face. The fence looks loud so I scrape burnt umber over it, Jaz still looks grey. I paint blue over the top three inches of fence, big improvement. I thoughtfully include yesterday's score line onto the wall, just in case Russell hasn't heard it.
Whilst I'm making these improvements Tom masterly finished his head and shoulders and by lunchtime must have changed his background eleven times, and each one to die for. I've only had one idea and it needs improving.
Pleased with bold graffiti. Tom suggests painting all the background blue in a South American style, the artist I've forgotten. What an improvement,he then suggests changing the bold graffiti and suddenly, I've got a painting!!! Thanks Tom!
Looking at everyone's efforts I thought there were some lovely paintings produced, especially when you considered how difficult the pose was. Well held Jaz. By the way Jaz, what are you doing behind that wall!!
My oil paints had not seen the light of day (or night) since my last ‘two-dayer’ in autumn 2012. Relatively new to the use of oil paints, I was up again for the challenge of experimentation through trial and error of how to use them. I started safely with a quick drawing on cartridge paper with charcoal to establish the pose and get attuned. I could have comfortably spent the whole two days just drawing. However, out came the board and oils and the guessing game began. Everything was propitious; fantastic model, pose, light, space...no excuses. By the time lunchtime arrived the pose was set on board with ground colours going on. I decided there was nothing I loved more in life than life-painting. By 4.30pm tiredness was overwhelming and puzzlement as to what colours I was mixing and applying and why. Sunday morning brought a fresh view – the painting was a yellow and blue flesh, flat, lifeless affair. I started to work up some more fleshy colours and to try work out how to make the background recede and figure to look more 3D and lively. By lunchtime I began to wonder what I was actually doing here amongst all these artists who were producing paintings. I never really resolved my painting problems due to lack of knowledge and experience. But I will say I learned a lot from my trial and errors. There will have to be a few more of those before a real painting emerges. Nothing ventured – nothing gained.
I’d like to say that I had thought through the format for my painting and decided on the long narrow shape because of pre planned reasoning and aesthetics etc.
However the truth is that I had two spare canvases which were not each big enough for a painting lasting two days. I prepared them earlier in the week using the usual formula of applying randomly yellow pages, acrylic paint and some crepe paper. In passing I showed them to Haydn who asked was I joining them together and I thought ‘yes, I might just do that’.
So on Saturday bright and early Tom produced wood and screws and stuff and they became one long narrow whole canvas. There is nothing like a challenge to get you going--- how to squeeze the seated figure of Jaz into the frame or whether to take a slice of him and also what of the scale of it. Much bobbing up and down had to be done in order to overcome some of these problems.
Then I had a conversation with David where we discussed panels of fragmented bodies in this format and how they could be arranged in disorder and mixing up their sequenciality--------- and ‘bing!, another idea was born.
Great two days of painting, lovely atmosphere, time simply flew by and Jaz was a hero.
I tried but not for the first time I think I failed. The idea was to have the figure/head thrusting forward as though bursting out of the picture frame whilst in it's wake splintered a series of fragments, a combination of my thoughts and the imagined thoughts of Jaz our model. I'm always conscious of the bubble of the life room, the unreality of it all and this was a first attempt to play with the idea of the outside world intruding into our inside world. I so often feel that my life is like a brush full of ink dipped into a jar of clean water, for a brief moment the trail of the ink is visible as a series of beautiful patterns only to then dissolve into a murky, inseperable mess. For me art is the attempt to hold that brief moment of insight by paradoxically using laborious techniques, layering one moment on top of another with only shards of clarity remaining. It's a pointless but compulsive activity, a private vice almost.
Looking forward to the session I pondered the usual dilemma - what to do? Luckily, lurking in the drawer I had a new sheet of a new paper, Arches Huile. As it says on the tin, "Arches Oil paper is a French made 300gsm (140 lb), 4 deckled edge paper specially formulated for oil painting.......features a powerful & efficient oil barrier that absorbs water, solvents, and binders evenly while allowing the paint and pigment to remain on the surface. It is ready to use - No need to gesso; no preparation required!" Remarkably it does exactly what it says on the tin and, even more remarkably, it stays flat throughout. Brilliant! At the end of day one I was a little disappointed as the pigment on the surface does have a tendency to combine with any colour laid on top, thus the whole thing could easily end up muddy and monochromatic. I feared this was where I was heading and, to a certain extent, I think I did. I ended up doing a lot of rubbing out with a rag before over painting to try to overcome this. By the end of day two I think I had worked out a way of making it work for me, and I am looking forward to working with it when I can let the layers dry and work wet on dry thus, hopefully, creating more contrast, more punch. In terms of scale I think I, not for the first time, bit off more than I could chew - I might have been better off using half a sheet. It's very satisfying to end the weekend feeling that you've learnt something, so for me it's been a great, enjoyable couple of days. Our model, Jaz, was terrific. On Thursday when Tom and I were trying to work out the pose I tried the one we used and, though I thought it would be interesting, I thought that physically it would be very difficult. Was Jaz up for the challenge? Of course he was and he did a terrific job. Thanks, Jaz. And thanks to everyone else who came along. What a lovely, fun way to spend a couple of days. Watch out for future sessions COMING SOON!
An artist’s life for me by Tony Noble
It’s more than 5 years now since I gave up the teaching job in order to pursue my artistic ambitions. I realise that there are various possible ways to approach this, but I have chosen to try to develop my own profile/reputation through entering as many open competitions as I can. This weekend is a big one for me with paintings going off for submission to both the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition and the BP Portrait Award Exhibition, both in London. It’s a risky business. Even just typing this I realize that I could be setting myself up for an inglorious fall. The investment in both time and money is considerable, and in the end it could all come to nothing with the dreaded ‘R’ word (Rejected) always hovering just a breath or a wave of a hand away from the much more welcome ‘A’ word (Accepted). Sometimes I wonder why I do it. What drives me to put myself through the process time and time again? I guess it’s all about the need for affirmation, the need for reassurance that what I’m doing is worthwhile and has some value. It’s also about competition, about pitting oneself against others in the quest for prize money and the kudos attached to that elusive commodity, victory. I have to confess that I am quite competitive and enjoy this element. Of course, I know that I really do it because I enjoy it. I love it, but as a full-time hobby it’s very expensive. I’ve joked in the past that I might one day take up something less expensive – polo perhaps!
One of the great things about life drawing is the knowledge that whatever I do it’s of no consequence. It will not be judged in any effectual way. I can just get on with it and try to maximize the luxury of two and a bit hours of working with the model. I know that as soon as the model settles into the pose we all enter, for want of a better expression, ‘the zone’. For two and a half hours nothing else matters. That for me is the great luxury of the life room.
This week we were glad to have Guy for our model. Guy’s a great model, a great guy! He sprung a surprise on us, having had his previously long hair cropped short. We still had one variable to sort out – glasses on or off? Roger H stamped his feet in a fit of pique, but democracy reigned and the offs to the left prevailed overwhelmingly.
I’m never a fan of selecting favourites, the ‘best’ of the bunch, but a few stood out for me this evening.
Patrick produced a powerful, expressive portrait reminiscent of the work of the German expressionist, Max Beckman. Sandra produced a drawing, characteristically bold and fully committed in its execution, but I was impressed this week with the way this boldness was balanced against areas of great delicacy and finesse. Similarly, Ivan’s drawing contrasted a detailed, well-modelled head with a very economical approach to the body reminiscent of the portrait drawings of David Hockney. Incidentally, Watercolour Roger bumped into the eminent Brushmaster of Brid in Tong Garden Centre the other day. Honest!
* Next Thursday we have a very special session with new model, Carol. An experienced model, Carol approached us after having spoken with another of our models, Belle. Carol is seven months pregnant, so I hope a good number of artists will be able to join us for this special opportunity. We look forward to seeing you there.
Paintings and drawings by Carol, Catherine, Cathy, David, Hadyn, Ian, Ivan, Jane, Janet, Roger H, Roger S, Sandra, Steven, Tony, Yvonne and featured artist Patrick.
"Don't just Do Something; Stand there!" usually attributed to arch-conservative Ronnie Regan, seems strangely appropriate in the case of models as good as Sue. No, there aren't many, are there, who need only to stand there to challenge us to demonstrate an integrity to match their own commitment. I decided initially, from my low seated viewpoint, to have Sue dominating the surrounding company at my own eye-level. I then embroiled myself in needless background difficulties, which persisted all day, and derailed the plan entirely. Ugly result. So much for unhappy bunny me. "At least I can rip mine up" I says to Tom, as he too admits to being unhappy with his day's work : "It's rubbish, I'm going to paint over it." Ah but mine is a lot more rubbish than yours! I think Tom felt he had pushed a narrative potential into something "slick". By next week, it will be the underpainting of something beautiful. And mine will be cut up, sometime, rather than torn, and incorporated into the endless recycling of work into collage, which for many years has been my creative comfort zone. There I can introduce recent images to those from years ago and far away. Sad but satisfying. It keeps me out of worse mischief. So, to begin by the window, we have Colin working boldly and bravely in the intense pink glow there. Then Sue, taking on the challenge of the thumb-forward hand twisting the arm (which Sue our model was also painfully challenged by), and producing a kind of enchanting somnambulist about to walk out of the frame. (Sue our model was also short of sleep, she confided.) Sandra utilised her fluorescent pink/orange to deal with the almost impossibly-bright afternoon highlights in a structured, scaled down version from her customary size. It works! Moving on to a position facing the model, suddenly the hands, rather than presenting a challenging angularity, seemed to emphasise the curves punctuated by them. Also, against the light, they were accompanied by a blurred and softened face, with just the mouth as a strong feature. Anne picked up on this in a work of sensuous shape and colour. I was so pleased that she had the sensitivity to leave it where it was, and not be tempted to overwork it. And then, Russell, from a similar viewpoint, producing my favourite of the day. This seems to me strong structurally, but also, importantly, shows a preparedness to respond to both the expression and the physicality of the model before him. These two elements work together to produce, for me anyway, a very affecting combination.
Great variety from the portraitists. How did Tony manage to work with a Sirocco blowing at him all day from the heater? He produced a characterful work, with a mega-restrained palette used with some varied and free brushwork. Dick's gives an honest version of the difficulties being experienced by both model and himself in their work, complemented by a menacing green backdrop. David combines the ethereal and surface physicality in a style which is patently his and his alone, created reflectively and rewarding relective viewing. Hadyn's was more than a portrait, but the face and hair draw the attention in their sensitive treatment, and the overall creamy effect of the skin tones are enhanced by a great contrasting background . Ian's treatment exudes an instinctive joy in colour and spontaneity which prompts a smiling response. There is something about it which reminds me at times of Neil's work (haven't seen him on Thurs nights for ages), which I always liked to see.
It is so great to have at least one of us working in 3-D, and Emma's piece has a mix of inner steely strength, confident openness and humour clearly derived from Sue. I wanted to talk to her about it during the day, but was reluctant to disturb her. I wondered if it stops with the day's end, or carries on developing at home?
Altogether, a varied, friendly, intriguing day. The numbers attending both Saturdays and Thursdays are testament to a group getting things very much right. Maybe, though, attention must needs be given to managing the way they, and the model are distributed in the usable space. Would a complete circle at times be out of the question?
by Chris Fallowfield
Paintings and drawings by Anne, Chris F, Chris, Colin, David, Dick, Emma, Hadyn, Ian, Mike, Russell, Sandra C, Sandra, Sue, Tom, Tony and Vikki.