Week three, and we're getting to know each other.
We're a very mixed bunch, ranging in age from 16 to retired, and in ability from very good to - well, me. We're from all different regions of the UK, assorted backgrounds and educational experience, but what we do seem to have in common is a desire to be friendly and supportive to each other. Excellent. I was delighted to discover that our latest recruit lives in my town so we can share travel costs. He's only been here a week - moving was one of the reasons he joined late - so I'm really interested to hear his impressions as a newcomer. So far so good.
Our painting tutor obviously decided that the cardboard coffee cup was not challenging enough last week, so we walked in on Thursday morning to find a large and complicated willow sculpture as our latest inspiration - we had to respond with tone. Aagh! But it's full of lines! We had a range of media to play with, all monochrome - pencils, willow and compressed charcoal, white chalk, conte and emulsion, and I suppose I learned something from my mistakes. It was a relief to head upstairs for the textiles in the afternoon though.
Felting techniques with a range of brightly-coloured dyed fleeces placed onto net and rolled in bubble-wrap. Great stuff. My first attempt was a coracle design with black and Jacobs wool on a white layered with green background. By the time it had shrunk and distorted it wasn't exactly recognisable, but it was another attempt to interpret 'vessel' to go in the sketchbook. I just had time to make a random colourful piece on black muslin before hometime.
The next morning it was straight back into coiling our pots in the ceramics session. Mine had gone too hard during the week and I was shown how to re-wet it, carefully, oops no it's broken... then I was shown how to rescue a broken pot, and by the end of the session I was being praised for having a good shape and thinness. The pot, not me. One of the ladies unveiled a shoe she'd fashioned from the clay we could take home, fittingly transported in a shoe box, and we all admired her skill. I thought of my clumsy and crumbling attempts at coracle maquettes and determined to try again. Eggshells, now - there's a thought. Vessels. Hmm. What happens to ground-up eggshell in a kiln? Can it be mixed with clay? I asked the tutor. 'Bring some in,' he said, 'and we'll try it.' I suspect he already knows and isn't telling, I have to experiment with it myself.
Friday afternoon and poor Alan, our model, was allowed to sit for our lifedrawing attempts this time. First a full-length figure to re-cap last week's measuring work, then a portrait study. I could see that I'd already improved. I had two legs and feet I was reasonably pleased with this time. My portrait was going OK, I thought (it looked like someone, if not Alan) until the tutor came round and showed me where the points of reference should have been. I have great trouble with the 3D-effect technique, drawing boxes for the jawline and forehead, planes and angles. In my practice this week I've been attempting to draw eggshells and a seashell, as well as another effort with the acorn and seedpods. I've no idea where to put shading to make it look 3D.
Lots to learn. Still enjoying the process, that's what matters. I have to say I like the textiles and ceramics work more at the moment though.