Follow a beginner on their journey through the foundation course.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Andre Gide
I stand in front of the easel in studio101. The afternoon sun is streaming through the windows to my right. To my left, a configuration of small white boxes. I am wondering how I got to be here, in this place of beginning and unknowing. But before I am overwhelmed by this train of thought someone is at my shoulder breaking down the task into simple steps: stand back; see the whole; draw from the shoulder and do not be afraid. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel so daunting.
The first lesson is that of proportion: start by seeing the block, of which the white boxes are just a part. If I can identify the outermost axis then I can pin down the ratio of size and distribution. This means that when Icome to drawing a figure, it will not have a head twice as big as the body – I hope.
I spend the next hour drawing lines – top and bottom horizontals first; then left and right verticals; finally the internal edges of the boxes. Then I move onto a wine bottle and cup. I continue to focus on the dominant lines, keeping them straight and the objects two-dimensional. I think I see echoes of cubism yet the technique dates back to Renaissance Europe.
Every so often a firm yet sensitive voice intervenes and poses two simple but fundamental questions: Too big or too small? Too wide or too narrow? I think for a moment, stand back and seeing things afresh, start again.
I am no prodigy but begin to discern a method. I realize that there is a journey of learning that everyone passes through, even the greatest artists. Above all I feel supported by the authoritative and sensitive intervention of my teacher.
Like nowhere else, Lavender Hill Studios has created a space in which I feel safe to expose my unknowing. The teachers are trained in house and supported to develop their practice. As a result they are best placed to coax novices through.
My first class over and I have learnt a parallel lesson: that of perspective. By standing back I see the whole better; by seeing the whole I understand its relationship to the parts. Perspective teaches me that genius is rare and hard work is better. Perspective, in painting as in life, allows me to loose sight of the shore.