Sunday, 18 March 2012

the joys of drawing...

Yesterday I touched on the subject of drawing... so today I thought I'd tell you something about the Greg Kerr workshop which brought about the desire to draw more and more... and show you some of the results.

If you have not had the opportunity to study formally in the subject you are making a living from, you often feel at a disadvantage. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying you have to have an art degree in order to succeed as an artist, but there are times when you feel a bit of training and background knowledge would make the process a lot easier. There is sometimes a temptation to doubt one's own judgement because it is not based on academic study, but often on raw instinct.

To overcome this, I have made a point of attending whatever suitable workshops I have been able to manage (time and cost often being the main limitations.) But having said this, you have to be selective. There are unfortunatley a lot of people who, having spent a year or two producing reasonable facsimiles of magazine photos, and attending a few classes, set themselves up as art teachers. It is important to know, if spending valuable time and money on training, that the classes are run by someone with the credentials to take you further and give informed input and guidance, not by the blind-leading-the-blind.

In Port Elizabeth, we are very lucky to have a retired painting professor, who is not only a leading light in his subject, but also a brilliant teacher. As a bonus, he is widely read, appears to have total recall of every word of every book and poem he has ever read, and knows just about every worthwhile piece of music ever composed. He is, into the bargain, a not-too-shabby singer, so his classes are a stimulating mixture of art tuition, pushing our boundaries all the time, with loads of song, poetry, pithy quotations and laughter thrown in.

Last year I signed up for my first full year course with him. It was called Dark Cloud, and was geared towards establishing, amongst other things, an understanding of tonal vales, and generation of evocative images. The workshops consist of 4 full days, spread in 4 groups throughout the year (16 total) with assignments and preparation in between.

During the first 4 days, we had to produce a triptych of large charcoal drawings inspired by photographs we had prepared in advance. They had to show a progression from bright, more or less happy, through light puffy clouds, to a dark and ominous mood in the last one. Being me, I felt obliged to have some sort of cause or message within the pictures, and of course went over the top and did 2 seperate sets of 3 based on 2 different ideas.

The first one dealt with the sad state of decay of 2 of my favourite old buildings in PE, the derelict old Milling/Brewery  buildings. Here is the result:

ignore the blue tinge, caused by bad white balance on the camera, the paper really is white.

The second triptych showed churches, mosques and a synagogue, and basically expressed the idea that while all the major religions are fighting amongst themselves, the people they should be there for are dying... either directly as a result of the fighting, or perhaps just spiritually from neglect...

After the first workshop we were given a task that turned out, for me, to be a turning point in my approach to art... we had to produce 25 tiny delectable little charcoal drawings based on the reference material we had first generated in our photos, and bind them into a little A5 sized artists book. I chose the buildings, and found the production of these little drawings totally compulsive. Here are some of them:

 I just loved the process, and it is finding its way into my current work in the form of charcoal and conte crayon drawing incorporated into some of my paintings on canvas.  (I have done this before, there were some in about 2008 that I did with sketches included on the canvas, but it is now happening more regularly.) However it is taking so long to upload and they are all already on facebook so here is the link to the tiny drawings album.

The remainder of the workshop was about painting, and I learned a lot, but for me the drawing was a highlight. This year I am attending the Dinner Party workshops, and will share some of the insights and results in due course.

No comments: