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Life Drawing at Charleston Farmhouse

There’s art on show everywhere you turn this weekend with Lewes Art Wave – so how about creating your own works by joining a life drawing class?

Even if you are completely new to it you’ll find you are welcome with this small, eclectic (and eccentric) group.

The Walled Garden, Charleston Farmhouse, East Sussex (CC BY SA 4.0 J FVernon)

What is more, the next two sessions, owing to our usual venue in the Hay Barn at Charleston being unavailable, the session this Tuesday 6th September (and in a month’s time) will be outdoors in the Walled Garden, or if chilly/wet in the ‘Outer Studio’ of Charleston Farmhouse itself, making this an even more of a unique ‘Bloomsbury’ experience.

All levels from absolute beginner to experienced artist are welcome – what marks you make and how is entirely up to you. I started out when we met in the Outer Studio back in October or November 2016.

The sessions are run by the sculptor Silvia MacRae Brown.

Silvia MaxRae Brown (CC BY SA 3.0 J FVernon)

The models (male/female) are always extraordinary, and have the talent for creating and holding a pose, or creating a sequence of slow movement that we artists/students must somehow capture. Bring a picnic (the restaurant is closed), coffee/tea and biscuits are provided – as are all the materials if you turn up empty handed (easels, boards, paper, clips, charcoal/pencils). £55 for the day, from 10.00am to 4:00pm.

To confirm or enquire (part days are possible too) Email: silviamacraebrown@btinternet.com

Life Drawing at Charleston with Silvia MacRea Brown

Life Drawing at Charleston – Model ‘Dave’ (C) Silvia MacRea Brown (2022)

I look forward to the first Tuesday of each month with trepidation; I’ve been attending a life drawing class at Charleston (in the Hay Barn conversion for the last few years). The models are always very well chosen: good at their job! able to hold an interesting pose and ready to try all the things that Silvia suggests, which includes continual movement, as well as movement into a short poses, and then of course the class short pose (one to five minutes), the longer pose (ten to 20 minutes) and about as long as we go (45 minutes).

I was brought up on the 3 hour pose. The single, carefully executed effort to reproduce exactly what the eye can see. This is not Silvia’s approach; this is art from the heart and soul, on the fly, capturing the sense of the movement, the essence of the model. I’ve come to prefer sketches completed in a few minutes, while last time I ran off more than 30 ‘doodles’ onto a lengthy sheet of wall liner paper using wax crayons – the movement continual, each sketch possible a few seconds each.

This has been invaluable on my recent efforts to capture the ‘essence’ of club swimmers slogging it up and down the pool. Capturing the feeling, sense and movement of limbs and water, with the added complication of reflections is proving one heck of a challenge! Going out to sketch trees is proving easier – though fraught with its own problems. Does a tree keep still? How do you fit it onto the page? How do you different between tree species without going into the detail of a leaf or the bark?

The cost is still £55 for the day – which is excellent value for 6 hours at Charleston. We start at 10.00am and finish at 4.00pm. It isn’t all drawing. There are a few coffee/tea breaks (coffee/tea, milk and biscuits provided). And we break for an hour for our picnic lunch. We can sit in the Charleston Café (they are closed on Tuesdays) or find a spot in the yard. Or make a dash for Middle Farm along the A27.

I go away mentally and even physically exhausted. I like to ‘knock ’em out’. I also keep everything – religiously. This was my later mother’s mantra. I still have drawings I did with her in my early teens, and a few self-portraits done even younger, and the odd girlfriend from my mid to late teens (clothed I must add!). I never attempted a nude until my early twenties (and the drawing wasn’t what either of us had in mind). Then one class in Primrose Hill in the 1990s and nothing until we moved to Brighton in 2000 – and the first classes with Sussex County Arts in Brighton from 2014 or so, with Silvia at Charleston since November 2016.

With the unusually fine and dry weather the back ‘yard’ here in Lewes is a temporary studio. Feeling like San Diego I feel confident to leave boards, easel and all the accruitments of my ‘practice’ out – currently just watercolour onto cold-pressed cartridge paper.

Liz, the model, while she moved continually (Crayola Wax Crayon on wall paper liner) CC SA-BY 3.0 J F Vernon 2022

No budget sees me being resourceful. I have come to love wall paper lining and wax crayon. The very materials my mother started us kids off on when we were little: I cannot remember when I started to draw as it would have been age 3 or 4, as soon as I could hold something in my hand and not be inclined to eat it or shove it up my nose or into my ear.

I’m wasting time. I have two drawings marked up to paint and want to press on. Both are someone in water – both are of one of Silvia’s models ‘Dave’ in this instance (my wife has said she is fed up of seeing naked women all over the house so I’ve been working up sketches I have of ‘Dave’ and ‘Tim’).

Come to think of it, that is ‘Tim’ falling into the water (clothed as a swimming coach who someone has pushed into the pool, while the swimmer is ‘Dave’ – as Dave is bald which makes it easier to turn the top of his head into a swimming cap. Neither actually look like they are swimming, which is the problem.

I have been drawing swimmers in action – a challenging task! All swirls, shapes and somewhat reminiscent of a series of too short time-lapse photographs in which everything is blurred.

Students at one of Silvia’s recent classes in the Hay Barn, Charleston (C) Silvia MacRea Brown 2022)

I digress. There is a class coming up, this Tuesday 2nd August, at Charleston – in the fancy new Hay Barn rather than in the infamous Farmhouse. If are planning to attend or have questions get in touch with Silvia by email: silviamacreabrown@btinternet.com. If you want a lift from Lewes email me: joanthanferugsonvernon@gmail.com

Ditchling Open House Art Festival 2022

This ‘Trail’ is a great way to ease your way into the annual Open Houses Art festival that sprung up in Brighton 41 years ago and now fills Brighton, Hove, Kempton, Saltdean, Ditchling and beyond. The beauty of the Ditchling ‘Trail’ is that is generally easy to park in the Village Hall car park then walk in and out of shops and galleries on the High Street, in and through a number of back gardens to a number of studios and workshops, and of course, around the Village Hall itself which hosts a dozen artists and craft makers. 

Entering the Village Hall visitors are invited to complete a slip of paper identifying their favourite. I chose Chris Dawson, a cartoonist – for his wit and execution. Being someone who does life drawing once a month I enjoyed his cartoon showing a life drawing class in a nudist colony in which the artists are naked while their model is clothed. I also enjoyed Karen Peters, see ‘Home for Christmas’, and David Hobden

A little coordination between neighbours since our last visit, there is now a rabbit-run of connected studios between four or five rear garden studios and lean-to spaces. Collectively they offer garden sculptures, paintings, prints, pots … and bespoke guitars and citterns.

I can’t indulge myself in any way with this but can enjoy how types of sculpture can add so much to a garden experience, complementing the planting and established trees and adding a feature to a corner of the lawn or as a centrepiece. My eye caught the bright daisy paintings. 

Caroline Todd,told us how she began creating a painting a day in January 2020 and kept it up for a year during lockdown, restricting herself to small, landscape Moleskine art pads. She  filled several books on display here. 

It reminded me of exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, I’m thinking of Antony Gormley, featuring many notebooks that chart the thinking he has gone through and how one idea or another comes to fruition. 

Caroline was inspired by a fellow artist who said he had been wedded to the discipline of doing something every day for five or more years. 

Restricted to one location during lockdown she became acutely aware of the changing light through the day and seasons. 

I like the line in her blurb ‘there is always a danger of overworking the image and losing the magic’ – I have a habit of doing this (with paint, not drawings). I also like the discipline of doing something everyday, just as once upon a time I wrote a diary daily, kept a blog – every day; or would play the guitar, or go for a swim – every day. The guitar sits untouched like a wrapped sculpture in the sitting room – never touched: I will teach swimmers but haven’t been in the water myself for at least six years. Life moves on. I keep my fingers tapping, my hand in with a pencil … my mind alert and relieving itself somewhere, somehow. 

Life Drawing

A delight to be back with Silvia MacRae Brown at Charleston – only 2 months short of three years since I last attended. And possibly as long since I did any life drawing, though I may have had a few sessions at Sussex Arts Club.

I got through 15 ‘cheap’ sheets and a few more expensive sheets. I enjoy the rapid fire drawings and the exercises, such as drawing with you eyes closed once you have the shape in your head. I had already been taking my glasses off to see and mark shadows before adding detail.

My Mum would be proud. I always hear her tips gently spoken over my shoulder. How to observe. How to make your marks. The importance of keeping everything you do.

Life Drawing

katecollage1Over the last six months I have attended some 16 life drawing sessions. I am noticing an improvement. I hear my later mother at my shoulder all the time. I heed her advice.

Last week I worked on hands and feet; this week I put the body back. I even dared to try to add a face rather than ignore it.

Over 2 hours we did 5 x 3 minutes, 3 x 5 minutes, 2 x 15 minutes and a break. Then 1 x 20, 1 x x 10 …

I keep everything. Mum’s rules.

I never throw anything out and when I start a drawing on a sheet of paper I keep going, just drawing over changes. I rarely use a rubber, unless to erase black to leave white …. so it is like using a crude white pencil.

There is little time to measure the way I was taught doing a 3 hour single portrait; so I muddle between a quick outline and then correcting it, or, as today, placing the key positions of everything that trying to get the lines right first time.

 

 

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