Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Reading plus Doing equals Learning?

Back after half term, and we started with a rather disappointing session in the Learning Centre. The staff dude who was taking us didn't seem to have much of a clue as to what we were studying or why we had to be there - the big screen presentation was geared towards finding info on Great Artists for essay-writing, which we don't have to do, and all the mouse moves and clicks were way too fast for most of us tech-shy Oldies. A whole suite of computer terminals was reserved for us upstairs and the (by now two) staff dudes were run off their feet trying to log us into the system - largely unsuccessfully I'm afraid. Some managed to get into Moodle but fell at the last hurdle - yet another password needed to access the Textiles notes we've been trying to reach since week one...
Fortunately for me, I am Known to the staff (as having unsuccessfully attempted this exercise every week) and eventually I was logged in (illegally - ssh don't tell anyone) on a staff dude's log-in and FINALLY managed to print off several pages of class notes on batik, felt making, soldering and silk paper making, to the envy of my classmates who noticed. Most of them gave up and wandered off for a coffee break.
As if to make up for this, our painting tutor gave us a nice easy task for the rest of the morning - not. One large sheet of paper (A1 I think), a variety of drawing implements, and the instructions to go off and draw 20 things in the next hour. Quick mental calculation - 3 minutes per item? That can't be right!
After exhausting the easier items in the classroom and some distant trees, I went out into the corridor, where a huddle of my fellow students were observing a caretaker's floor brush. I joined them. Further on there were people drawing a snack machine, the lift doors and assorted bins and notices. I had a go at the stairwell, sadly. In desperation, I found myself outside taking a rubbing of two grids with interesting patterns... still only fourteen things drawn and I was exhausted, nearly in tears with frustration and about to give up. But back in the classroom (I'm not a quitter) and finally doing a reasonably accurate rendition of a stool, I found I'd managed my 20 things, unlike many of my artistically-able friends, and could go off to lunch with a clear conscience. My grid-rubbing was even singled out for praise.
In textiles that afternoon we were given the password - again - and settled down to some applique work. I have to say applique has come a long way since I was given a book on it in the early 70s. Now you can paint onto 'bondaweb' and iron it onto various fabric squares, giving a coloured background that glues items to itself with further ironing (don't forget the parchment paper on top though, or you'll be cleaning the iron for the rest of the session). Then you can sew random patterns into the result with machine embroidery - or even take a needle and coloured embroidery thread and do it the slow way. That's what I did. I used to love embroidering before I had children. After of course I never had the time...
Ceramics on Friday mornings is always a good session. We were finishing off our large coiled pots - mine ended up with some curly decoration round an ovoid lip, others cut amazing patterns into theirs and one lad drew manga cartoons round the belly. I also had a go at burnishing with the back of a spoon, over the parts that were dry-enough-but-not-too-dry (is that 'cheese-hard' or 'leather-hard'? I forget). I was warned that those parts now won't take a glaze. The tutor gave me the results of my eggshell-firing - a white powdery residue which I pestled ready to mix with slip to make a glaze - and suggested bringing in some flint next time. I showed him my thumb-pots made at home and talked about my fascination with holes, suggesting fragility in strength, and he told me that lace can be immersed in slip and fired... I've been thinking about this in relation to my project all week.
The life model was a bit late in the afternoon so we started off drawing our tutor - clothed, I'm afraid - using charcoal. When the model arrived we did three drawings, but what we were supposed to concentrate on I've already forgotten - some shading came into the third one I think, trying to add tone to make him look 3D. I do remember that my proportions were out, and I wrote on the drawings where I'd gone wrong. There was a particular technique we were using, I'm sure. One of my dear poetical friends said 'Ah, that's what we call spagghetti-brain. Menopausal. It's quite normal.'
OK. Glad I'm normal, for once.
And we had homework this week. Draw more items. Get sketchbooks up to date. Done. I've also borrowed two books on drawing, and two art magazines. It's always easier to read about something than to actually do it, and I can kid myself it's 'necessary research'. Well, it is.

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