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Life Drawing with Silvia MaCrea-Brown at Charleston Farmhouse
The barn at Charleston Farmhouse – Artists’ Studio and Musuem
I took up life drawing in 2016; until then I’d only even drawn portraits and things: buildings mostly. Initially I attended Sussex County Arts Club in Brighton, turning up a couple of times a week over many months, possibly 18 months on and off, before I heard about the day-long sessions run by sculptor Silvia MacCrea-Brown at Charleston Farmhouse. I’ve been a regular ever since. I think we try to make 10 sessions over the year, always the first Tuesday of the Month. Maybe we don’t meet in January or February (too cold for the model), whereas in late July, certainly August we are in the ‘summer barn’ at Friston Place which can see us in the enclosed garden – life drawing outdoors. Though the model may need a parasol and sunglasses!
My late Mum (who gained an MA in Fine Art from Durham University) would be proud of me; and intrigued though this wasn’t her style or approach. Coincidentally she was taught by Quentin Bell when he was a lecturer at King’s and says she baby sat for his children Julian and Virginia I suppose. She was from the school of art where you sit carefully observing a single pose for several hours and execute it with scientific care and a soft pencil. She draw us like this, and in due course I was drawing my friends too in a similar fashion. What we get with Silvia is art as being, the heart and soul of putting marks on a blank sheet of paper, drawing from the shoulder, drawing at speed. At least that is how I have come to see it.
Today was a challenge like no other.
Usually a model will make a series of poses, say ten poses each lasting 3 minutes (minimum) or six poses for 4 minutes or some such. We may follow up with poses of increasing length, say a couple of at 30 minutes that a ‘long one’ of 45 minutes. Not today. Never with Silvia. She always has a trick up her sleeve which I feel conjures out of us a playfulness, and character that would otherwise be lacking.
Liz is a wonderful model: beautiful, intelligent and keen for ‘her’ students/artists to have a chance at creating some magic (even if we’re everything from novice to professional). The ‘warm up’ of a series of short poses was instead a series of semi-constant movement using Qi-Gong. Her feet and torso solid, Liz moved her arms synchronously in the same repeating pattern. This was one heck of a challenge. I like a 1 minute pose that I may complete in 10 seconds, but here the movement is constant. I made it up as I went along, at first establishing the torso/trunk and head as best I could, and then picking a moment that I would return to hoping to capture that moment. I then found myself trying to add to my initial doodle in the fraction of a second that position was repeated.
After several attempts at this I then tried different things: making the trunk as hesitant as the arms/hands would appear, and then getting as many stages of the hand and arms as I could – forgetting about the torso/trunk and legs, only adding these later. It felt like trying to capture a moment of a hummingbird feeding, yet Liz moved really slowly. It was a challenging ‘warm up’ – far more challenging that lots of ‘short’, static poses of 3 to 5 minutes, and more challenging than drawing with your non-dominant hand only (left in my case) or drawing with your eyes closed. I proposed ten drawings. I used a fountain pen with black ink. I tore them from a pad so that they could be shared with the class. We do this: all work out on display to view and discuss.
We took a break: coffee/tea and cake.
Next up a 30 minute pose. Liz sat. Looking at it I think I rushed setting out the pose. I do chance it which means I can dislocate a shoulder or shorten a leg, and most easily of all, turn fingers into a bunch of bananas/broken twigs. I tried some pastels. I wonder if I can ever get away from black ink on white paper – that or lumps of charcoal. I lose something I feel when I take my time and it gets fiddly. Or I make it so. I admire the artist who gets the pose as simply as possible than adds a few dashes of watercolour.
Lunch. We bring our own packed lunch as the Farmhouse and kitchen is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I usually bring something or make a dash for Middle Farm.
An hour to make friends and catch up with others. May of us have been doing this for a few years. I was missed at the last three sessions; the first I had Covid, the second I had a terrible cold and the third I had a family funeral.
After lunch we began with the only long pose of the day. I think it was 30 minutes, or was it 45 minutes? Liz got herself comfy on a sheepskin rug and pillows and by all accounts fell asleep. We drew. I ventured into colour – a new development for me. So far I’m only having success adding a simple colour wash to ink drawings.
After that we returned to movement, but this time with a pose frozen for a few moments, even a few minutes. For me this was enough (usually), to get a flavour of the pose, everything positioned just about in the right place with an opportunity, very tentatively, to try and get a sense of Liz by adding features to her face. Liz had music to do all of this too, haunting songs, nothing familiar but all beautiful.
These multiple poses are something I could work with – on even larger sheets, recreating what I was doing today, trying to fit in the ‘right’ combination and number of poses: say three to five main poses, with eight or nine minor ones.
And so the day came to an end – it was 4.00pm. Like others I felt I had been sitting an exam it was that intense, though far more fun.
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.
Covering Student End of Year Shows in 360
Continuing coverage of the summer at GB MET show at Durrington.
The pattern that is emerging is to cover the ground, each exhibition room and some corridors with a 360 still image, then return to take mid-shots and extreme close-ups. As I find the language for covering an exhibition I also use 360 video.
The pattern is to cover a room, on the self-timer at 5 to 10 seconds, then return first with a standard lens and then using a close-up lens for fine detail. Everything is manually set to try and negotiate very different lighting conditions. Much of the lighting is mixed source, between bright, low or no sunlight, with neon or other artificial lighting. The 360 camera offers various White Balance settings. Shutter speeds are generally kept low so that if someone wanders into a shot (rare) they will be out of focus in any case. Exposure is therefore adjusted by the ISO.
All the images using the standard digital camera are RAW.
All the 360 images are transferred to an iPad mini which operates the 360 camera remotely. All the images on the iPad are backed up in Google Photos. All these images, those chosen to use at least, will then be colour corrected in Adobe Lightroom, then uploaded into ThingLink and stitched together into a Virtual Reality Tour.
Some ‘establishing shots’ or just reminders of the rooms or corridors I am in are shot on my iPhone. It might be better to use the iPad for these and keep the images saved on a college device and in my college Google Gallery.
‘Hotspots’ will feature a random mixture of mid-shots and close-ups. The issue with VR is that the ability to zoom is lost as soon as you overlay ‘tags’ and ‘hot spots’ and the definition is reduced with the zoom too which counters the way we step in to take a closer look to see greater detail, not to have it obscured.
The coverage is somewhat random as I am not in position either to be comprehensive (cover all items in all sizes) or to be selective (I don’t know the student, the tutor or the department).
The simplest guidance I get is to cover the Degree graduate programme. Armed with a plan of the site I pick all of these off over two days. The Richoh Theta 360 camera runs for around 6 hours, but can overheat and shut down. It takes 4 hours to charge. At times a second 360 camera would be handy. With the self-timer I can get well-out of shot though I have learnt to leave the iPad within a 4m range so that the link is not lost. Once activates the camera will still take a picture however once lost the signal has to be reset via the WiFi connection, or sometimes by turning the camera on and off again.
Pen and ink drawing class at the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings
Fig.1 Chair and shade
It was like being back at school: though the ratio of 15 women to 3 men felt like I’d gate-crashed the girl school’s class down the road; I was educated in all male schools from 4 to 19. Of the 15 two were under 20, two were under 30 and the others above 60 and 70. No difference. Just like school. I recognised this swimming with Masters that given any opportunity to be the child that we were we are.
My relationship with art is an odd one: a mother who taught art, had an MA from Durham University in Fine Art, but who discounted at as a career for any of her children. I took it as far as A’levels (under her tutelage).
In 90 minutes we has some history, so thoughts on kit, then we got on with it. I found a secluded spot in the central courtyard (Jerwood Gallery, Hastings). And picked first on the climbing plants on a wall, and then the chair I’d taken out of the class. My challenge was to look at different ways of adding shade. Eventually I found that changing from pen to cotton balls and ink would differentiate between the object and the shadow. This’ll take further work.
Other learning opportunities over the last few days have included:
Power Boat II (Refresher)
It is eight or more years since I did the course and seven years since I’ve been in a power boat. A bit of it came back. And new stuff was added. I need this so that I can operate a ‘rib’ during ‘racing week’ at the local sailing club: laying the course, keeping an eye on the fleet to rescue and assist. The sea can be choppy, the winds strong. Dinghies go over and their mast can pin them to the shallow sand and grit of Seaford Bay.
How to train a pigeon
In her wisdom my daughter has rescued a pigeon with a broken wing. The RSPB and animal sanctuaries aren’t interest. ‘Ralph’ is now accommodated in a garden shed; shits everywhere but is eating from my daughter’s hand. Muggins will be looking after it shortly of course. The volume of pebble-dash shit is impressive as every shit is onto a fresh patch of shed floor – it will be one shit deep, like a carpet by the weekend.
The exhibition on the designer Ivan Chermeyeff at the De La Warr is so good I’ve been back three times. There is no book on this exhibition, though many of his books are nailed to a table to admire (the page it has been opened at), with a few books you can browse. There is an insightful video too – an interview with the designer talking about how he got into fine art and graphic design from an inspiration father. One of the things he talks about is ‘learning to see’. Had photography not been banned I would not have got out a pad of paper and looked more closely at his collages. Had I not taken such a close look I wouldn’t have seen, with magical surprise, that one was made from ephemera collected at the inauguration of JFKennedy as US President on January 20 1961.
Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being.
Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)
H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates
H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes
H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students
B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change
H808: The e-learning professional
This completes the Masters Degree. I graduate on Saturday 27th April 2013
Currently (March 2013) I am taking H809 as a bridge towards doctoral research or professional consultancy. Complete in June 2013.
H809 Practice-based research in educational technology
I joined the #H817open MOOC for one component of this module. I will register for 2014
H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.
- Why skiing is my metphor for life and learning (mymindbursts.com)
- Martin Weller and the MOOCers (mymindbursts.com)
- Openness in Education WK1 MOOC (mymindbursts.com)
- Making swim coaching a tad easier with SwimTag (mymindbursts.com)
- How to visualise learning – think Lava Lamps! (mymindbursts.com)
- How more deeply embedded is a visual memory if you crafted the drawing or painting that is the catalyst for its recall. (mymindbursts.com)
- No. 5 aha moment: the Web as a universal standard (downes.ca)
The final module of five to complete the Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE)
Successfully registered and signed up for H810: accessibility – starting September with a January finish. This will complete my first, extraordinary OU Journey after three years.
Intellectually challenging, rigorous, comprehensive, expansive and life transforming. It took a while but I am now working for a world leader creating e-learning resources for companies – manager training for the most part.
It won’t end here. I have my eye on a History MA. I’ve discussed this with student services. Starting September 2013 in two parts this will take me into the Centenerary of that horror, the ‘war to end war’ (HGWells) 1914-1918 that I blog about at http://www.machineguncorps.com
History would have been my first degree decades ago had I not got cold feet and switched to Geography. And an MA in Fine Art (which had been on the cards in 2010 when I elected for the MAODE.
I guess that’s the next decad taken care of!
The skin removed from a human body reveals a mess.
Plastination of a Ballet Dancer
The skin removed from a human body reveals a mess.
The walls removed from a business does the same. It has happened whether or not we like it, even without Wikileaks we are revealing more of ourselves than ever before.
Glass Skull by Rudat
Our minds are a mess if our sculls are made of glass: mine is, I expose and disclose and share my thougts.
Posting notes isn’t laziness, it is mess: it is ‘messy stuff’.
It is the beginning of something, or the end, it is both unstarted and unfinished. Notes go down well in our ‘wiki- world’ as it makes space for others to interject, to correct and fix in a way that feels less like criticism and more like collaboration.
Once was a time I’d pick out every misplaced apostrophe, especially concerning ‘its’, now I care less, ditto spelling. Would I have hewrd the incorrect apostrophe on the possessive of its? Would I have known that I’d hit the ‘w’ key instead of the ‘a’ typing as I am with my left hsnd only propped up in bed. And what about the missing ‘h’ I’ve left out of ‘thougts’?
Too late, I’ve said it now and my next idea is coming through.
I find reflection spiralling out of control into an extra-terrestrial maelstrom of thought that has nothing to do with the ‘job at hand.’
At the macro level reflection for me is on the scale, and of equal significance to Douglas Adams and ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and the Meaning of Life and Everything.’
I find reflection spiralling out of control into an extra-terrestrial maelstrom of thought that has nothing to do with the ‘job at hand.’
At the micro level, the job at hand is a tiny part (10%) of a TMA in a unit, of a module of an OU Course.
My mindset has to be of a myopic jeweller with some gems and a gold band.
I don’t mean to trivialise it. On the contrary. I worry how in my life reflection has never imposed itself. I see, I feel, I do. If I reflect it is to look in a mirror and accept what I see, not try to change it.
Reflection has been hijacked by educational institutions. Don’t have time to mark a student’s work, get them to mark it themselves … and then judge their ability to reflect on what they have done.
I think you can take from this that I don’t value reflection as a tool to assess a student. As a tool to gauge a person’s position, as a coach or facilitator to build on that person’s personal view of themselves – brilliant. But to give it a mark, pants.
Given that for the seventh or eighth time in the last two decades I have been advised that I am skewed towards action and visualisation I have to wonder how I can, or do, generate this amount of verbiage.
I am transcribing a dialogue between characters. I have a scene in my mind’s eyes as I type. I even see people, from the OU course, tutors, others … friends, as if attending a garden party.
For me reflection has to be, as it has been taken twenty years to engrain itself, the kind of introspection, sharing and reflection, fictionalisation and admonition, of Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Virginia Woolf and Proust. I favour, absolutely, the indulgence of a Proustian ‘Involuntary Rush’ and its relevance to the person in this state. Serendipity. Where is there space for it if we are shunted down a dead track, into a Waste Land.
I go with Kolb and Cowan, their cycles and spirals. I favour the hurricane, the tornado over the spinning top. Which is what this is, spinning a top through a set of questions: what happened? What next? So what?! And then, I suppose, not a lot, or a lot, you defend your position, you stick, you retreat or move forward. Is this reflection.
Stopped by a Police Motorcycle on the A1 South of Gateshead my mother turned to her children and said, ‘cry,’ look uspet.’ And in due course, the traffic cop, seing three miserable children and a harassed Mum let her off the speeding fine.
Was that micro reflection on her behalf? Is this a Proustian ‘involuntary rush’ on mine.
Where lies this in education? Everywhere, especially in education social networking, which I have hated and now smile at. Reflecting on the whiffs of conversation I dared pick up as my daughter typed into Facebook with the speed of criminal law court copyist. The bulk of what her generation are learning is being done this way – socialising, homework, the entire mess of life a 21st century melange which says to me the OU is not right to say I am wrong, when I may be proved right and ‘they’ haven’t a clue.
I suggested to someone today that I would like to do one MA after another, five years a time, ’til the day I day. The OU can have my money and my mind. This is a little boy in a sweet shop.
Next up History of Art … with the OU, while doing an MA in Fine Art.
Then a return to History, 1066 to the Restoration for starters. Or Modern or Contemporary History? I fancy the First World War and have trunks (literally) a libary of books and other resources and artifacts on that one.
Geography, and all that it embraces.
English Literature and creative writing.
And French, once I’ve mastered the written language.
and kite surfing, and paragliding …
In your dreams mate, in your dreams.