The first three days of the course were so jam packed it was as if they’d been stretched over a month; the next two were so hands on that the time just sped by and I woke dismayed to realize that tomorrow would be my last day here. Not wanting to let the day get away from me I met Rebecca and Jess for a trip around the fabulous art bookshop on Broad Street before class, picking up copies of Sarah Simblet’s ‘The New Silva’ and ‘Botany for the Artist’.
What we did
Today was billed as ‘studio practice’ and was intended as a day to assimilate all that we had learned over the past week. I started the day listening to Sarah fielding questions from fellow students and telling anecdotes of her experiences writing books. She was then kind enough to sit down and give me advice on the anatomical spreads for my next instructional drawing book (Life Drawing in Fifteen Minutes), as well as providing incredibly useful input about for the anatomical component of the Draw Atelier course.
After searching in vain for modeling tools with which to complete my head sculpture (I’ll do it when I get back to the studio in Brighton) I spent the early afternoon looking through Sarah’s exquisite dissection studies. I studied a series of ink drawings Sarah had made whilst dissecting an arm, trying to unpick the layers of marks to gain insight into their execution. To be able to handle the drawings in the flesh was a rare treat; the lightweight paper on which they were drawn lent the drawings an air of particular precious delicacy at odds with the confidence of their production.
I also looked through drawing made for Sarah’s most recent book ‘The New Silva’. I was surprised to find that they had all been made on A1 sheets of 370gsm Lambeth drawing cartridge so they could be laid out the size they’d appear in the book, alongside mock ups of the text. They must have been a pain to reproduce at that scale, but the effort that went into the production of the book shows through in the final outcome.
A studio day seemed like a necessary addition to the course, allowing us all time to reflect, as well as providing us with time to chat to one another and to Sarah. I worry I could have used the day more effectively, but equally I’ve gained a lot simply from the conversations I’ve had.
Students can be bad at motivating themselves, particularly on adult education courses. When given free reign in a studio after a tightly controlled program of study many people flounder and fail to use the time productively, or to appreciate the resources at their disposal. Most of my class mates spent the day visiting Oxford museums or drawing in the studio and Sarah went out of her way to ensure we all felt well looked after and felt supported in our own individual lines of enquiry; what more can a tutor do?
A thing I learnt
Sarah’s ink drawings were fascinating to study, since I’ve been experimenting with nibs and inks lately I’m going to try her particular combination of materials (Japanese drawing ink, Leonard 356 nib and the afore mentioned cartridge paper) and practice quoting some of the marks in her drawings to explore the potential of the medium.
Teaching, drawing, writing and painting.