Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Ah, no modelling work today (postponed for two weeks) so I spent many happy hours visiting exhibitions in local studios as part of Somerset Arts Weeks. Most inspiring.
I am so happy that I decided to 'go for it' and spend 2 years studying and practicing art, despite the perceived need to earn a living and put my previous 2-year course to good use... more bohemian poverty and a total change of direction, but one which is making my inner child intensely happy.
Last Thursday was our first day. We were told we wouldn't be doing any actual 'work' but like most communications from the college that turned out to be wrong. By the mid-morning break we were stood in front of easels and issued with compressed charcoal, brushes and pots of water and of white emulsion and invited to draw/paint a collection of apples on the tables between us. Our theme for the term was to be 'vessels', the apples were suggested as 'vessels' for seeds.
OK. Blank paper. Charcoal. Ignore all those inner messages saying 'you can't draw!' and just do it. The process is all, the product is irrelevant. So I observed where they were in relation to each other, and began making marks. The tutor remarked at some point that my apples were smaller than most people's (but that's how I saw them). Suddenly the session was at an end and we looked at what everyone else had done. Yes, mine were small. But I'd filled in the space around them and indicated the lines on the paper they lay on. I wasn't too displeased for a first attempt.
After lunch we headed upstairs for Textiles. We were straight into Batik work, containers of hot wax and interesting implements for applying it to paper, plus dyes to spread over the top and irons and newspaper to remove it after. We were a big group and it was all rather chaotic, I felt quite pushy trying to get my turn on the iron and straight into making the next sheet, but by the time she stopped us I had 4 pieces of coloured patterned paper.
OK, next part of the process was to tear up our sheets and use them to make a collage, with the morning's painting of apples as a guide... again, I was looking at pattern, how they lay in relation to each other. I liked the end product and thoroughly enjoyed the process too.
Driving home I realised that I had a manic grin all over my face. Wow - 2 years of total self-indulgence playing around like a child...
Friday was harder. First thing was ceramics, and after the initial obligatory health and safety rules and general introduction, we were each given a lump of clay and asked to make a thumb pot in the shape of a long thin cylinder. Have you ever tried it? A couple of people got the knack straight away, but most of us were struggling with the way it just kept widening out, no matter what we did. Several attempts and a coffee-break later, I finally got the idea of moulding it from within while firmly constricting the outside. Next project was another thumb pot which would be broken up and glued back together at a later session, but we all ran out of time and had to leave our half-moulded shapes on a shelf covered in cling-film.
Friday afternoon is going to be the hardest part of this term. Life drawing. You'd think after all the modelling I've done and all the tutors I've listened to, I would have a head start? All this stuff in my head - how to measure, how many heads fit into the body, etc... I completed 3 drawings in the two hour session, willow charcoal on A1 sheets, and it was SO frustrating I was almost in tears several times.
Oh well, I can only improve. And sitting for the Tuesday morning class of 16 year-olds this week was a boost to my self-esteem... I think I did better than most of them, at least.
Meanwhile my mind has been filled with the concept of Vessels, poetically, linguistically, emotionally, searching through Art journals to see what others have made of it and starting my sketchbook with words and images. Probably more words than images, more words than most student's sketch books, but hey. I'm still a poet underneath. All creative disciplines feed into each other. It's all self-expression.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


My course starts tomorrow.
Here's a quote from the Guardian and Observer guide to Drawing, given away free with the newspaper this weekend and sent to me by a friend from choir (the choir I won't be able to attend for the next year as I'm doing the course):
'In some ways we see the world around us through our language, and our ability to describe it is limited by our understanding of language. The same can be said of visual (drawing) language. Having the right language - selecting the right materials, point of view, making the right marks in response to what is seen, and learning how to organise and structure a drawing to provide the best possible outcome - is an ongoing and continuous process of achievement that develops with every drawing we make.'
I am a poet. This resonates. I am a poet because I cannot draw. I'm aiming to become a poet who draws. I will speak multiple languages. I will speak in tongues.
No expectations, then...

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Chaos at College!

Yesterday was my second attempt to enrol and pay for the Art Foundation course. The first was on June 9th, when I handed in the completed form and my documentary evidence for the concessionary rate, but was told I couldn't pay until the Course Manager had contacted me.
I spent the summer waiting. In fact I was so concerned that I phoned the Art Department on several occasions to ask if the course was still running and whether I had a place on it, but no tutors were ever available to ask. Finally, last week, I had the long-awaited phone call - the Course Manager is also my Line Manager for the life model work, so after the shock of discovering that the attendance days had changed (see last post) we started to book me up for modelling. He still seemed a bit unsure about numbers and enrolment so said he'd phone me back on Monday to confirm.
I waited in all day, twiddling thumbs and unable to get down to most of the other things on my To Do list because they depended on knowing about the course... finally at 5.00pm, when I'd given up, he phoned and things began to move.
I said I'd come in and pay the next day.
Arriving at Reception it soon became apparent that the Right hand was in total ignorance of the Left hand's movements. The Receptionist was trying to field enrolments between her Receiving work and was quite obviously stressed. She found my paperwork - but I still couldn't enrol. I needed the Course Manager's signature on a seperate form to say he'd explained everything to me. She phoned through. He came over from the Art Department. Again. It was his third trip that day to sign papers. He thought he'd signed up to teach Art. He hadn't even wanted to be Course Manager in the first place - it was a 'poisoned chalice'. I commiserated. He signed. I waited my turn for the harassed Receptionist's attention again, and finally managed to pay.
Then, having driven all that way, I thought I'd use the college gym to save myself the session fee at my local one - I'm trying to get back into shape after a rather lazy year. At the Fitness Centre there were people waiting for the Receptionist...
I went to get changed. There was still no sign of him. Finally I recognised him taking a large group of new students on a tour round the facilities. When he got back to his post I asked for a locker key so I could use the gym. He looked flustered and decided to deal with the next person in the queue instead. I continued to wait patiently. It's a bad habit of mine.
'Locker key?' he said eventually. 'Follow me.'
We went to the gym, where he hunted on a high windowsill at the end, past the weight training area, and came back with a bunch of keys. The first he tried opened a locker full of someone's equipment. The next one was empty. 'Ah,' I said, 'so I come and see you when I want to get my stuff back...'
The gym was full of young men showing off, graced by the occasional short visit of sporty young women. The music was loud. Some of the cardio-vascular machines weren't working. The Receptionist noticed me struggling with a rower and came to apologise. 'We're getting it serviced next week,' he explained, 'and we're getting some new machines in too. It's hard getting things past the budget.'
I left through a lobby crammed with new students milling around in a state of confusion and high expectations. It's going to be interesting, being both a new but mature student, and a (decidedly mature) life model.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Back Again, with a New Hat

A new hat being a new role, in this case. I'm taking the plunge - about to experience life on the other side of the easel. Scary stuff, especially as my artistic training and practice ended at the age of 13 when I was told not to take Art O-level. So I'm expecting to go into this at the bottom of the class, which is not comfortable for anyone.
But I'm very excited about learning a new 'language', a new way to express myself. I used to say I'm a poet and a writer because I can't draw. Yet one thing I've discovered in my observations as a life model over the years is that it's possible to LEARN to draw - it's not innate any more than the ability to play a musical instrument.
Let me explain the plan. I'm about to start a part-time Art Foundation Diploma at the college where I work as a model, two days a week studying and probably one day a week working there. As it's so new, so scary, and will doubtless be so emotional at times, I'm going to record my progress in this blog. Who knows, I might even learn how to download photos onto my laptop and transfer them to the blog too. In fact it's something I'll have to learn if my Grants for the Arts project goes ahead, but more on that another time.
In any good story there's the Call to Adventure, which I've heeded, and then there's the Threshold Guardian (or does that bit come later?) anyway, the first Trial. And in this case it's the college Art Dept not managing to communicate effectively... hmm sounds familiar, I had this problem with them last year over the contracts.
In the prospectus the course was due to run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I have just discovered that at the end of last term they changed it to Thursdays and Fridays for the first year course (2nd year remains as it was). The lead tutor took all the paperwork home with him but was told that the college would contact the students. Obviously they didn't, and what's particularly frustrating is that I spent several phone calls over the summer trying to get hold of someone to tell me what was going on, but was always told the tutors were away and I'd be contacted soon.
I'm just relieved that I didn't set up a poetry course to run this Autumn. As it is, I have to cancel two jobs I'd agreed to do on Thursday mornings - and take a year's sabbatical from the community choir I've been in for nearly 18 years, as they rehearse on Thursday afternoons. So I suppose it really is a test of my commitment.
Now I just have to wait for confirmation early next week that there are enough enrolled for the course to run...