Beginner’s Art Journal: Entry 3

Follow a beginner on their journey through the foundation course.

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through.  Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it.  This is a kind of death.”       Anaïs Nin

Water Carrier Entry 3

As I return to the studio for my third lesson, I run through the principles I have learnt so far: stand back, draw from the shoulder, light markings on the paper and, most importantly, see the box and then the lines of flight.  Not forgetting my mantra of course: rub out and start again.

It all seems very simple, but I am prepared for a step back – perhaps one figure instead of three; frequent and slight rotations of the cast so that I can focus on the technique rather than the end product. I centre my attention on the slender, milk white nude to my left.  She gives the impression of having gently nudged her contours into space.  I love her tranquil gaze and the brazen nudity of her form.

Unfortunately my translation does not do her justice and my frustration rises in equal measure to her quiet.  On the page she is wider, her features blunt and her proportions, disproportionate.  How I can get it so wrong!  Softly but with perfect timing and incredible insight a teacher’s voice shifts my focus back to the lines and the fundamentals of process vs product.  A change of pose and pace; a fresh pair of eyes and few, sharp questions set me on course once more.

This is the first time that the subject I am drawing is necessarily smaller on the paper than in reality.  I define the top horizontal, trace the bottom horizontal, mark my left vertical, then the right.  Finally, but critically, I score in the major dividing lines – shoulders, hips, knees.  Once the distribution is there, then I can think about chiselling the outlines of her limbs, but always in straight lines and sparingly.

I stand back and reflect.  I compare the drawing and the cast.  In a world dominated by product it is easy to forget that the process is as important.  I am reminded of something I read recently: when you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur… don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.

With the same stroke I realise that for as long as a language, whether spoken, visual or other, has a grammar then whoever the teacher is, is secondary.   I had been disconcerted by the presence of a new facilitator but the beauty of Lavender Hill Studios is that all the teachers are artists, sharing in that grammar.  I understand suddenly that change stimulates learning, it keeps the student agile and focussed on the process.

Finally, a demonstration by one of the founders confirms my theory and raises my spirits.  Demonstrations are invaluable in showing how the grammar comes together.  They are spontaneous but determined, at once rigorous and relaxed.  Ultimately they show that mastery comes in practice, not in a flash of lightening.

It has been a frustrating week, but also an illuminating one.  I have come away empowered to work through the challenges and remain alive to them.  I know I can gain nothing if I stop.  I must push through.

Beginner’s Art Journal: Entry 4

Follow a beginner on their journey through the foundation course.

“Art exists that one may recover the sensation of life, it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stoney.   Viktor Shklovsky

Ashmolean Barocci Virgin

I rewind the term so far in my head  – from boxes I have progressed to smooth, muscle inflected casts, beautifully lit against black curtains.  I have a way to go before I do them justice but as I reflect on the weeks passed I am pleasantly surprised by the trajectory.  I begin to see how knowledge and skills are layered to make the impossible achievable.

I also realise that there comes a point where practice, repetition and discipline must be the cradle of technique if I am to come close to mastery.  That is the definition of passion and commitment and ultimately talent.

However, this week one of my greatest lessons lies beyond the studios, in exhibition halls.  On the one hand it is about context; on the other hand it is about seeing.

Barocci, it transpires was meticulous in his preparation.  His sumptuous depiction of religious scenes and beautiful portraits did not fall like manna from heaven but were the result of hours spent laying down the detail – the proportion, the line and volume, developing chiaroscuro sketches and finally beginning to apply colour.  I see the Lavender Hill Studios mantra taking shape before me!  I am encouraged.

But above all I am excited.  After four weeks acquainting myself with the fundamentals of drawing from life, I have not only come away with a greater understanding of how to draw but also, and perhaps more importantly, of how to see.  Standing in front of this magnificent collection I see the work with new eyes.

For the first time I discern with confidence the skeleton of the picture.  I identify how the chiaroscuro and myriad sketches feed into the final work.  I look at the oeuvre and am thrilled by its delicate and thoughtful beauty, but also by my enriched understanding of it: the shadow shapes in the fold of the fabric; the compliment of colour; the lines that encase the scene then carve life out of the block to ensure an accurate relationship of parts.  It is ironic that one of my favourite pieces is that of a chiaroscuro study of the Virgin of the Rocks.  Incidentally, it is one of the few works by Barocci held in a British collection.

And the real beauty has been that I have assimilated this knowledge without struggle or resistance, almost without realising.  Simply through doing.  I have been guided by articulate and incisive teachers and supported by a community of peers all eager to exchange and enhance the other’s experience.

Art History talk at Lavender Hill Studios

We are delighted to welcome Sandra de Laszlo to the Studios.  Sandra de Laszlo is an art historian, she trained at the Victoria and Albert Museum and has worked in some of the most respected arts institutions around the world.  She is founding Editor of the de László Catalogue Raisonée and will guide us through the life of this accomplished artist.

de Laszlo_PA_JH_11189

Philip de László, built his reputation painting portraits in the princely castles of Europe. Born in Pest in 1869, he gained a place at the National Academy of Art before going on to study and work in Munich and Paris.  He married Lucy Guinness in Dublin in 1900, and not long after they moved to Vienna.  In 1907 they settled in London, where he lived for the rest of his life, albeit endlessly travelling the world fulfilling the demands of his patrons.

Join us at Lavender Hill Studios for an evening of enlightenment and fine art.  There will be plenty of opportunity for questions and answers as well as general conversation over a glass of wine.   All proceeds will go to LHS Next Generation Fund, a scholarship fund in support of aspiring young artists wishing to train at the school.

For more information and to book a place on the talk please contact: info@lavenderhillstudios.com 

Date & Time: Wednesday 16th October, 7pm

Location: Unit 101/2, Lavender Hill Studios

Cost: £7 conc., £10

London Portrait Courses at Lavender Hill Studios

Portrait Painting Courses at Lavender Hill Studios

Working exclusively from life and beginning in charcoal, students will be introduced to the basic principles and the preliminary stages of rendering a portrait. Introducing proportional guidelines and using the ‘essential darks’ as the way to create structure and form, students will focus on mastering these basics. They will be taught the importance of the value scale for creating depth before progressing onto oil and colour. Students will complete at least one charcoal and one oil portrait. A demonstration will also be given.

Nick Bashall's Portrait Course Demonstration

Nick Bashall’s Portrait Course Demonstration