Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Meaning of Life Part Two

L in orange & blue
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2008

My second CSM course last year was a week’s worth of Life Drawing with Colour. The course was at Back Hill in Clerkenwell - not too far from where I used to work many years ago. First person I spotted inside was G, resplendent in a tartan yellow kilt (luckily he didn't recognise me). He and I appeared to be the only people over 25 in the entire building apart from the security guard. Hordes of slender trendy youngsters - mostly female - crammed the hallway. Eventually I spotted one or two women of a similar age to me - one of them came over for a chat (overjoyed to see someone else over fifty I think). Turned out she was doing a class with T so I was able to tell her what a great time she was going to have!!

Our tutor was R, whose Beginners Watercolour course I’d attended the previous Summer. The students included a lady from Cheshire who'd been travelling since 4am and two friends from Harrogate who'd joined the course together. Sixteen in all - three chaps and the rest girls, about half from abroad. Three Japanese (including a boy who barely spoke English), two Russians, someone from Turkey and a couple of others - several newcomers to Life Study. R told us not to worry about drawing (hurrah!) - to concentrate more on Colour and Tone rather than Line. We were working on Easels (ouch! my muscles after standing all day!) and started with a Drawing in Charcoal so that he could assess our skill level. The model (a young lad called L) struck his first Pose and we were off. On the whole most people produced good drawings but generally we had not used enough Tone for R. We had to try again using a Burnt Umber Pastel, and this time everyone did better! I went into the stairwell to Fix mine - T came past and was kind enough to praise them both. At lunchtime we went to a nearby Art Shop for more Pastels and Watercolours in Earth Shades. We spent the afternoon doing two more Pastels using a Limited Palette (three, then four colours), concentrating on Not Drawing, Mixing on the Paper and Getting the Tone Right. I decided to Forget Pastels and use Watercolour for the rest of the week - it's not dusty and there's no need to Fix it - plus I had more of the right colours. R was quite happy and suggested that I put my work flat on a Table.

Our Model on Day Two was a girl called M. I remembered to sit down whenever I could . . . R asked us to produce a picture using just Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine, Indian Red and Titanium White - the Watercolourists were to go about it in the same way as those using Pastels ie put the colour down and Mix it on the Paper, then use White to Kill a Lot of It Off . I wasn’t used to doing that but it worked and I managed to produce a pic of M sitting on a chair. We had the usual Crit - R thought we'd all done quite well but should be going for more Overall Consistency and needed to Remember the Background as well as the Figure (he'd sat M on an assortment of Vibrantly Coloured Cloths which some of the students had completely ignored). He liked the fact that I'd painted M Nice and Big on the paper. There was some muttering about using Smaller Paper and Doing Two Paintings at Once, which I ignored, along with the suggestion that the Watercolourists could use some Pastels for Emphasis - not feasible in my case as I'd taken care to leave my pastels at home LOL. Everyone's second pictures were an improvement - the whole class was starting to Move Away from Drawing and was now Thinking in Terms of Colour. For lunch I took a trip down Memory Lane (Leather Lane, actually, I used to visit it regularly when I worked nearby). Back at Back Hill (architecture: Minimalist Art School reception, Tiled Public Toilet staircase, Rabbit Warren classrooms) I got chatting to a Saudi Gentleman in my class who does Art courses whenever he can come over here. He'd done courses at the Slade, and at Chelsea, but rated CSM the highest!! R asked us to Just Use Red and Green (plus White) to create various Shades of Grey, and to do a Background in Pure Colour. I made a Cadmium Red body, added some Viridian Green shadows and made free with the White. - good enough to get a Very Well Done from R. Everyone had produced their best work so far and one or two had portrayed skin you could almost touch!! (but all in those nasty scratchy Pastels).

M in cool colours
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2008

Thank goodness for Crocs. Not the animal - the shoes. I wore them to Art School for Day Three. And they worked - no more aching back or legs! We still had 100% attendance - everyone was so keen - and our Model was L again. Luckily he preferred to be cold, as we'd left the windows open all night to rid the Studio of Pastel Dust. A couple of the younger students had moved on to Acrylics, with great success (one confided that she couldn't bear using Pastels any longer!). Our first task was to use Blue and Orange. R told me to mix them into a grey and start with that, but it was more of an olive green (mixture of Cobalt and Cadmium Orange) and went on darker, I think, than he would have liked. I added Ultramarine shadows, Orange lowlights and Tit White highlights afterwards (Not Forgetting the Background of Pure Colour). R said it was Terrific and he probably wondered why I didn't seem very animated but in truth I was terrified because this was all Experimental and I had No Idea What I Was Doing . . . oh, the pressure of success!! After the Break we moved on to Yellow and Purple (Cadmium Yellow and Dioxazine Violet, sounds like a prescription, doesn't it LOL), and, to encourage everyone to Deepen their Shadows we were also allowed to use Burnt Umber. L, who'd had his Back to me during the first session, was now facing me, so I laid him down (as it were) in a mixture of the two colours and set to work. This time it was a lot harder but the painting turned out far better than expected. To save my legs I went to a nearby Sandwich Shop and ate in the studio. I hadn't had time to do a Pure Colour Background on the last picture so I filled this in also. The two Japanese girls had chummed up and were sitting chatting - the boy with Minimal English was listening to his i-Pod, poor thing. The Saudi Gentleman, the Cheshire Lady and a Beginner were swapping tales of other courses they’d done. Our afternoon session was based on Cool Blues, Greens, Purples etc and R told us to let our imagination Run Riot. He replaced the Vibrantly Coloured Cloths with ones of Cooler Colours to encourage us. This was my excuse to paint L in my favourite Cerulean Blue, adding Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson and Tit White for emphasis, with Violet and Green Cloths. R was encouraging again - "Don't say that, you know what will happen" I begged, and he agreed - "You won't be able to start anything!" (thanks, R). True enough, I immediately Deformed L’s legs (one was so bad I washed it out and painted over it later). As L kindly remarked when he wandered over during Break (wearing a dressing gown, I hasten to add), foreshortening is quite difficult, and he did have large feet. I didn't like to tell him that they were also extremely dirty, from the Studio floor (I hoped). On the whole I was quite pleased with my Cool Blue painting - various students came over and said nice things about it - but I spoiled it by putting in an Alizarin Crimson background. R said this worked although it didn't ought to, but part of me wanted to go in early the next day and put a blue wash over it . . .

Day Four saw me arrive with my Tube and a roll of Tinted Watercolour Paper!! Today's Model was M again and R asked us to use primary colours: Red, Blue and Yellow (plus White ), blending them on the body and using them pure as background. Everyone else was using brightly coloured paper and I had pretty pastel tinted sheets - it was lovely stuff though; the man at the Clerkenwell Art Shop (Stevensons) told me they don't make it in that size any more. It was somewhere between A1 and A2, 300gsm Bockingford, and it unrolled perfectly flat and lay obligingly on the board without buckling or anything . . . I thought I was in love (with paper?)!! My figure was fairly garish what with the Red, Blue and Yellow, but mellowed OK under a layer of White. R used the T-word again but I didn't like it, dogged by the feeling I‘d peaked too soon! of course, using different paper meant the paint dried more slowly and I ran out of time - as did several others. Everyone had improved - the Boy with Minimal English had positively blossomed (on paper at least) and all the work was really original and interesting . Next we had to choose a set of Complimentary colours - in my case Cobalt Blue and Cad Orange - and off we went again. R enthused about my painting - 'you're using the Watercolours almost like Pastels' - probably because he was teaching Pastels and I was following his instructions! For the afternoon picture we had to reverse what we'd done previously - the figure in Pure Colour and the background to be muted. I made a Viridian Green figure and chucked a load of Cad Red and Yellow onto it. I found myself using Watercolours like Oils!! The Saudi Gentleman was actually using Oils so that was another classmate who'd abandoned those Horrid Pastels. I asked M a bit about Modelling. She thought her hair looked a bit long in our paintings and was planning to get it cut!

L in cool colours
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2008

Everyone turned up early for the last day. I took the opportunity to ask R about the new CSM building at Kings Cross which is to replace the existing four campuses from 2011 onwards. Apparently the gorgeous Lethaby building (where I did the previous summer’s course) is going to become a hotel, and is listed, fortunately. We began the Class with a Crit of yesterday's final piece. I didn't like mine any better when I saw it again but it did get praise (and some constructive criticism). Both Models were Posing and I had a nice glimpse of Model Etiquette as M introduced herself to L, who tactfully moved to another part of the room while she stripped off. The brief was to produce at least one picture - L would hold his Pose all day while M would strike one Pose all morning and another in the afternoon. R had excelled himself with the Vibrantly Coloured Cloths - I counted fourteen!! I decided to paint L all day and do a second painting of M during the morning and possibly a third one of both of them in the afternoon. Of course, using Watercolour meant that I had to lug boards on and off my Table, make sure the colour didn't run when I propped them up (no room to put them flat to dry) . . . what a palaver!! Sadly our 100% attendance record didn't last as one of the Harrogate girls felt poorly and her friend took her home early at the start of the afternoon session. I couldn't face starting another painting and thought it best to concentrate on finishing the one of L. I'd done him in earth colours and the one of M in cool tones. They looked quite good at the Crit and R said how much I'd come on, apparently I'd captured something of L even though it didn't look like him. We both agreed that I needed to work large to avoid cramping my style (literally)! though how I was going to manage it in my boxroom studio I didn't know . . . everyone had done their best work. Some people had done both figures together and made some really interesting pictures. The Boy with Minimal English produced a superb drawing. A Beginner had started to loosen up. The Cheshire Lady's picture of L was almost anatomical. The Saudi Gentleman had done two wonderful oil paintings. During the Crit L grabbed some Charcoal and Paper and did a quick sketch of one of the Japanese girls. We headed to the pub, where I took my leave of everyone, thanked R and L, and staggered out into the Farringdon Road with my paper. It had been a great week!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Memory & Imagination

Memory & Imagination: New River, Broxbourne
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

It might seem strange, blogging about a painting which I don't think anyone (apart from me) is going to think much of, but I really like this picture. Just after Easter I took a walk with a couple of friends (and a dog) along the New River at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. It was a lovely afternoon and I wished I'd brought along my camera. We saw a swan sitting on her nest, various other waterbirds such as coots and grebes, and (memorably) a brace of ducks using the long, straight river just like an aeroplane runway! One of my friends mentioned that he regularly brings his two-year-old grandson to the river to look at the waterfowl.

When I got home, I scribbled down my main impressions of the scene: the long, straight river vanishing in the distance, the swan on her nest etc. Three weeks on (with much happening in between) I finally got around to setting brush to paper. I wanted to capture the feeling of Spring, the drama of the straight lines, the green algae-filled river, the wonder of spotting that swan on her nest. No matter that I can't remember now if the tree roots she was settled in were those of a willow or something else, or that I've almost certainly left out a bridge or two. The man and the boy on the river bank might be my friend and his grandson, but they might not (the child in the painting is probably too tall for a two-year-old). It doesn't even matter that it's not a particularly good rendering of the scene. This one's for me - but I'm sharing it with you!