Wednesday, 26 August 2015

A bad case of the projects.

The first term at Winchester school of art pretty much all we did everyday was draw, from nine until five each and every day. And after that were various projects and introductions to sculpture and printmaking. In sculpture I learnt to weld ( handy later on when I lived under canvas and needed to make a stove) . In printmaking I learnt about silk screen , etching and woodcut. Of course I have very little evidence of any of these things so you will have to take my word for it, and sketchbooks, lots and lots of sketchbooks .

 It seemed as if all the excitement I had of getting on to a degree course , the wanting to try out ideas , just sit down and paint and paint and paint, was being frittered away. A lot of us felt that way , but we were for the most part fresh from home, some of us for the first time , some, like me, living in halls of residence, some out in shared houses.

The discipline of standing in front of an easel for 2 and a half hours at a time was mind bending , and then another 2 and a half hours after lunch, and finally at the end of each day putting up our work and talking about it , seeing what was weak , learning about what it takes to stand behind your own work , be honest enough to know whether it was good or bad or just not trying ( never try and draw with a hangover) the sheer gladiatorial brutality of it that left some crying and some just leaving, it was intense and scary.

 I suspect what they were trying  was to weed out those who actually wanted to do this from those who didn't or couldn't because they weren't technically capable enough, or bullshitted too much. Though having said that hardly anyone left. 

But by the end of it they'd provided us with enough material and technical ability to draw competently. Drawing as a skill and a tool , something other than just a representation of what was in front of us, we drew with charcoal, made strange linear representations of forms with sticks and plaster scrim, modelled figures and sections of figures in clay ( I spent a whole day modelling a foot from life above life size), drew drawings as quickly as possible within seconds , a barked command to move to the next position around a life model , not allowed to think, we drew in paint, staring at a fixed position without reference to the board we were painting onto , drew what we saw from the corner of our eyes , two handed , drew negative space , some of my favourite life drawings I've ever done ( lost, presumed skipped) exploring negative space featuring a blank space modelling the edge of a figure within a room. We tramped miles out into the countryside with A1 drawing boards and paper to the top of St Catherines hill and the water meadows to look out on the landscape and draw it, landscape the friend and befuddler of abstractionists the world over. Drawing , drawing, drawling.

I just wanted a studio space and a stock of paint to carry on where I'd started with Steve Payne. Some of the third years and those who'd gone on to Ma's said that you spend three years doing a degree and then years after that trying to unlearn everything you've been taught.

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