I was cream crackered, shattered, washed out and weary, my legs felt like jelly and my arms like spaghetti, banjaxed I was a shadow of my former self, a weakling, a mere stripling, my bulk masking the limpness of my soul, the last thing I wanted to do was life drawing.... and yet with my head hammering and hands trembling, legs aflame and ankles aching, I ploughed onwards, first one mark reluctantly followed by another, then a few more, slowly, slowly the flame spluttered into life, energy returned, first frustration and then enthusiasm, I might actually make something of this. Joseph has a twitch and suddenly the metronome of that flickering cheek becomes the rhythm of my hand holding a tremulous brush, stab, dab, mix and parry, the colours are smeared and smudged each piling one on top of the other, cancellations and revisions, how can one cheek hold so many challenges, up and down it flows, in and out the incremental changes model the nervous terrain and gradually a synonym of Joseph appears, it looks right but it's not right so the duel continues cheek to jowl until finally the merciless clock calls time gentleman please and once more I slump absolutely cream crackered.
Hadyn provides a master class in the drawing of an arm in perspective, economy of line and delicate modelling, it's a really lovely drawing in my opinion
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Cathy, Dick, Ian, Isi, Ivan, Mati, Roger, Steven, Sue D-Y, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Hadyn.
There has been a seismic shift in the life room, a velvet revolution and I can pinpoint the exact moment it arrived. Watching the SkyArts, ‘Portrait Artist of the Year Award’ one of the contestants silently slipped out their i-pad and began taking photographs, no word was spoken and then quite shockingly they placed the i-pad next to the canvas and quite simply began to copy the photograph, the live model was now all but redundant. I think there was an audible gasp across the country as artists nationwide witnessed this blatant breach of one of the fundamental pacts between artist and model. The pact can be summarised as, ‘I will remain very still and you will record me to the best of your abilities’. This elemental agreement forged through centuries of art making was now broken, the model had become merely a temporary vehicle, a convenience to be referred to now and again instead of the lodestone forged in the crucible of ferocious looking and passionate recording.
So now we have to think, what of the classics, the squinting and measuring, the thumb assiduously sliding up and down the beleaguered pencil like a deranged slide rule, the huffing and puffing as line after frustrating line was rubbed out to eventually create a glistening patina, a delicate palimpsest of fragile dots, dashes, scribbles and scuffs, marks plotting a unique journey of discovery. Knowledge hard won, the life room used to be the sacred space in which you joined that select club of those who could draw stretching back centuries. You were communing with the ancients, touching the hem of Rembrandt, grasping the sleeve of Michelangelo, walking hand in hand with Leonardo, quite literally in the footsteps of giants. The life room was one of the few places left where past practices barely unchanged for centuries informed the present. When Michelangelo picked up a piece of chalk and drew a reclining man in order study the alignment of muscle, bone and limbs so as to better understand his figure of the Libyan Sybil whilst painting the Sistine Chapel he was using life drawing to inform his practice. When Ingres was looking to inject authenticity into his sensuous tondo of the Turkish Bath he drew from the model incessantly having her twist and contort to realise the full extent of his erotic dreams. For generations the model / artist relationship has been sacrosanct but now there is an insidious interloper, the i-pad.
I feel something of a hypocrite, as the Americans say, I’m conflicted. I love technology, I accept shortcuts, I can see how for some the use of the i-pad has made a tremendous difference, giving confidence, allowing more time for detail, supporting failing eyes, I use binoculars for heaven’s sake, so what’s the difference I hear you say. I suppose it’s the shift in priority from working drawing to finished piece. I always thought the life room was a place of study, an experimental space but now it appears to be drifting towards a place of finished goods. The completed, resolved piece seems to be in the ascendency and I’m worried that experimentation, individuality and downright eccentricity will be downgraded, basically I’m worried we’ll stop learning and having the confidence to express ourselves as individuals.
Let’s hear some opinions on this issue, I want to hear your voice, i-pads in the life room, good or bad and more importantly why? Use the comments link below to share your views.
by Tom Wood
Paintings and drawings by Jane S, Jane, Judi, Sue, Tom, Tony and selected artist Hadyn.
With time and frequent practice I realise I am becoming more familiar and therefore a little less daunted by the various and often conflicting mental and emotional phases which occur in the development of a piece of art work.
I welcome the initial stages. I relish those early and then secondary steps of applying the ground, whether this is just a layer or two of paint or a more complex application of materials. This is when I become friends with the work and enter into a relationship with it. This is where, with any painting or construction, there is the opportunity to forget and not even think about the finished product but see this period as preparation and groundwork. This is the time where there is no pressure and I can be carefree and enjoy the process of stretching the imagination, be as outrageous, unconventional and as crazy as I wish. Pour and splatter it, collage and stick it, obliterate or graffiti it, this is where the subconscious can be liberated and ideas can be formed and articulated by images rather than dialogue. A talkability that can express itself without words.
The previous stage can take as long as I like except in the life drawing sessions which are limited by time yet it is still possible. Then there is an intermediate stage which continues to be relatively stress free. This is where I look at and find meaning in the marks already made and the colours and materials which have been applied and I respond as I would to a conversation or even a dance. This rudimentary piece can provoke many further actions and reactions leading me consequently on to a slowing down and to a steadying and contemplative juncture.
Then, after my art piece and I have travelled so far, comes the really scary bit. I hit the wall. I do not know what direction to take next or what marks to make and the piece is stonewalling me, the relationship is on the rocks. My confidence is seeping away, depression looms and I wonder whatever made me think I could make this work. Previous encounters with this stage really floored me but now I recognise it when it appears. It still affects me but I know it is something to be gone through however long that might take and I have to stick with it. This is a point where after struggling I may need another experienced eye to help make decisions or I may need to make drastic and bold changes under my own steam.
After the wall is conquered the last decision has to be made. When is the work finished? Well I need time and distance for this last.
On Thursday as I strolled around the life drawing session at half time I saw some lovely marks and colours in the partly completed works. Looking at the life drawing gallery this week I wish there were photos at the half time point so that we could each take our time to decide which of our own works had more potential, the half finished or the more finished works.
by Sandra Cowper
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Dick, Haydn, Jane, Mati, Roger (plus finished drawing), Sandra, Sue, Sumi, Tom, Tony and featured artist Alex