Slade Summer School – Day 5

I wanted to buy something with my debit card today, but the fella in the shop said I had to spend £5 to do so; so, I grabbed the first thing I saw – a huge bag of giant chocolate buttons. Of course, I am now in the unfortunate predicament of not wanting to pack them in my suitcase tomorrow, as they’ll get squished; which means, I’ll have to eat them all tonight. It’s going to be a struggle, because I am actually full up; as I have just got home from a dinner at West London Synagogue. I went to the Shabbat Service first, which was beautiful. I had the sensation of lying down in a fragrant meadow on a warm summer’s day; it was peaceful and very relaxing.

West London Synagogue

West London Synagogue

The dinner was amazing. Firstly, I sat next to two lovely people; they were both very interesting and seemed to think I was too. To my right was a lovely man called Stanley; we had a great chat about lots of things. To my left was Lin, who was also lovely; both she and Stanley’s wife gave me some excellent art advice, which I wrote down and felt very fortunate to receive. Oh, and the food was gorgeous, thanks to the French chef.

The speaker for the evening was Hannah Rothschild – writer, film maker, chairwoman of the National Art Gallery and very down to earth and funny. I was completely mesmerised by her talk – it was so interesting. She has recently published her second book, called: The Improbability of Love. It is set in the art world and involves a stolen painting.

Hannah Rothschild

Hannah Rothschild

After the Dinner, I walked back to Bloomsbury (the Synagogue is in Marble Arch), which meant walking the length of Oxford Street. What an eye opener. It was very busy and there were lots of sights to see. The strangest were the Selfridge window displays, which had mannequins that had eyebrows, but no eyes.

Selfridge window display

Selfridge window display

Just as I was nearing my residence, I was thinking how much I would like to read Hannah’s book and, at that very moment, a bookshop appeared; remarkably, it was still open even though it was getting late. I went in and asked if they had the book. Not only did they have it, but the shop guy told me he had just read it and LOVED it! I told him all about my dinner, which he thought was cool.

 I was funny that should hear a talk from the chairwoman of the National Gallery this evening, as that is where our class spent the morning. What a beautiful place! The coolest thing I saw was, Van Eyck’s, Arnolfini Wedding. It’s a painting that is in every art book, and is therefore, very familiar; indeed, it’s like when you see a celebrity and for a split second you think they’re an old friend.

Jan van Eyck, The Arnolphini Wedding, 1434

Jan van Eyck, The Arnolphini Wedding, 1434

Even cooler than the Arnolfini’s Wedding painting, was what was outside the gallery.

yoda

I still can’t figure out how he was doing it.

After the Gallery, we went back to the studio and worked on our pictures, then had some wine and wandered around the school to look at everyone else’s work. I really enjoyed looking our wander – some of the work was exceptional; also, I bumped into a lady who was on the same course as me last year, so it was great to catch up.

Slade studio tour

Slade studio tour

All in all, the course was amazing. I loved the picture that popped out of me; even though it’s not perfect and there’s things I would change, it has given me great inspiration for a new type of picture I want to make.

Of course, one of the best things about the course was meeting Lindsay. It was sad to say goodbye to her; but, who knows, we may meet again…hopefully next year at the Slade.

Slade Summer School – Day 4

I have been dog-tired all day, due to spending the whole night lying in bed wondering why I wasn’t asleep. Have you ever wondered where the saying dog-tired comes from? Well, I did just then. According to Wiktionary:

..it derives from an old tale of Alfred the Great who used to send his sons out with his extensive kennels of hunting dogs. Whichever of his sons…were able to catch more of the hounds would gain their father’s right hand side at the dinner table that evening. These chases would leave them ‘dog-tired’ yet merry at their victory.

I suppose my insomnia had a merry side, in that I managed to finish the big drawing I’ve been working on, in my head that is. I thought about all the things I wanted to put in it and how I would be able to get it all done before the end of the course. Unfortunately, the actual me is slower than the me in my head and, as the day progressed, I realised I haven’t got a hope in hell of finishing by Friday. True to form, I have filled the picture with iddy biddy things; consequentially, I am far from being finished. For a while there, I thought I was still in with a chance – thanks to the RedBull I had at lunch – and drew so fast I thought my hand would fall off.

In the morning we went to the British Museum; which, lucky for me, is only 5mins walk from where I’m staying. Our instructions were to find 3 objects we would like to draw into our pictures. My favourite thing was this fellow. I didn’t get a chance to put him in my picture today; perhaps I will tomorrow.

funny-man

African Sculpture, British Museum

After the museum, it was pretty much downhill for me in terms of mental acuity; so the afternoon was a bit of a blur. However, I did perk up when Lindsay suggested we go for a drink. On the way, we popped in to see the great philosopher, Jeremy Bentham. Even though he died nearly 200 years ago, he had the foresight to request his that his body be taxidermed and gifted to the University upon his death. Unfortunately, his head withered over time, so that is tucked away in a cupboard, and he has a wax one instead.

Jeremy Bentham (w/ wax head)

Jeremy Bentham (w/ wax head)

The bar we went to looked like the setting of an Agatha Christy novel; indeed, I half expected Poirot to come wandering around the corner. Lindsay and I had a lovely time; we get on like a house on fire and have lots in common: including art, a love of books and the fact that we both know the words to God Save the Queen – perhaps the only bright side of British Imperialism.

The lovely Lindsay

The lovely Lindsay

Well, I’m as dog-tired now as I was before, so I better go to bed; hopefully, this time I’ll sleep.

Slade Summer School – Day 3

I can’t vouch for the coherence of the following post, as I am fresh from the public house. I was there with the lovely Lindsay, a friend I have made on the course. Lindsay is from Canada and is lovely…oh I said that already. Anyway, we had a nice time. Before going to the pub, we went to a mysterious book shop. I say mysterious, because it was filled with arcane books and knickknacks, and the fellow at the counter was dressed all in white and wore a little white bonnet with a feather sticking out of it; it had the look of religious garb to me. I was dying to ask what that religion was, but didn’t want to offend him in case it was a fashion choice. There was a bargain bookcase out front, selling books for £1; so I bought 3. I guess I wasn’t paying attention, because it turns out one is in French and another in German…and that was before the pub.

Treadwells Books, Bloomsbury

Treadwell’s Books, Bloomsbury

True to my word, I got up early this morning so I could be at the studio before our museum visit. I drew a few more buttons and then decided to add some of Lucian Freud’s birds – only mine were bright red instead of rainbow.

After that, I made my way to the Wallace Collection, in South Kensington. While I was standing outside, waiting for the rest of class to appear, I noticed that people visiting the collection were dressed real fancy. When we made our way inside, it was easy to see why; it is very posh.

Wallace Collection - interior

Wallace Collection – interior

To be honest, the paintings and artefacts they have aren’t really my cup of tea; as such, once the lecture was over and I had taken pictures of some curtain ties (which were lovely), I made my escape; though not before I popped into the gift shop and spied a fridge magnet of a painting I have always adored. I asked the assistant if the painting was in the collection; and, sure enough it was. So I scurried upstairs to see it.

The Swing (cropped) - Jean-Honoré Fragonard 1767

The Swing (cropped) – Jean-Honoré Fragonard 1767

Arguably the finest example of French Rococo painting, Fragonard’s, The Swing,  was commission by the naughty Baron de St. Julian, and depicts both himself – reclining on the left – and his mistress on the swing. The fellow doing the pushing was originally meant to be a Bishop – as requested by the Baron; but Fragonard, for the sake of decency, made him the husband of the mistress. I am not quite sure what it is I love about it. Although it’s super cheesy, every time I come across it in an art book, I can’t take my eyes off it. I think perhaps it’s the cotton-candy centre against the ominous outer reaches; or perhaps it’s the lady with two fellas. Either way, the real thing did not disappoint: it’s a fabulous painting.

Back at the studio, I carried on with my Lucian birds and added the lovely curtain ties; with them and the buttons and the eye-chickens, my drawing is starting to take shape.

 

Pic. drawing

Slade Summer School – Day 2

I started my day eating biscuits in bed. I was actually meant to be jogging, but I had a bit of a situation. You see, normally I travel with only a cabin bag – being that I’m too stingy to pay for one in the hold. But, for this trip, I thought I’d splash out; so paid the money and loaded up a big suitcase. Only, I found that I didn’t have enough things put in it; so, to stop everything rattling around, I decided on a last-minute addition…my jogging gear. Now, I realise I’m not someone you’d necessarily associate with physical activity; but I have started jogging and, strange to relate, I am rather enjoying it.

So there I was, sitting in my little London room, planning my route and checking what time the park was open; when, to my dismay, I realised I have forgotten jogging-pants. As progressive as London is, I’m pretty sure if I went prancing around Bloomsbury Park in my knickers, there would be some sort of protest…probably with placards. So I had to stay in bed and eat biscuits instead.

After my delicious start to the day, I wandered off to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where I met up with my class.

The Victoria & Albert Museum, Kensington

The Victoria & Albert Museum, Kensington

If you’ve never been to the V&A, then next time you’re in London, you should put it on the list. It is fabulous! For a start, the lighting is really low, so you look 10 years younger. And, of course, there are lots of wonderful things to see; though, if your eyesight is failing, you might need a torch.

Our teacher took us on a little tour and helped us look at things in different ways, keeping in mind our drawings back at the studio. My favourite thing we was a sculpture called:

Head of an Ox on a Tree

Which was a head of an ox on a tree with a funny growth on his head that looked like a brain.

Head of an Ox on a Tree

Head of an Ox on a Tree

After our tour, we were meant to draw things; so I took a few photos and wandered off to see the underwear exhibition. Aptly named, Undressed: A brief history of underwear – it showcased the evolution of undergarments from the 18th century to today. What about pre 1800’s? well, it seems they didn’t wear any, the rascals. It was very interesting to see the changes in what are now essential items of the decent person’s apparel, and, you can be sure, we are at the lucky end of their evolution. I would’ve liked to have shown you photos of the corsets and bloomers etc., but, just as I was taking my camera out of my bag, a lady with a badge stopped me, Apparently you can take photos of priceless artefacts elsewhere in the Museum, but the knickers are off-limits; so, you’ll have to make do with this:

Exhibition poster.

Exhibition poster.

After our visit to the V&A, we went back to The Slade to continue our drawings, adding things we had seen at the museum. I added some lovely buttons to my eye-chickens and, was quite pleased with the results.

V&A buttons

V&A buttons

The only trouble with my buttons was, they were quite fiddly to draw and took flippin ages. I know you can get away with anything in art these days; but a few eye-chickens and a couple of buttons on a huge sheet of paper might be pushing it. So, as I have no pants to jog in and have eaten all the biscuits, I am going to go to the studio early to tomorrow and knock out a few more buttons, before heading off on our next museum visit.

Slade Summer School – Day 1

Steve Jobs once said Picasso said:

“Good artists copy; great artists steal.”

Actually, Picasso didn’t say that. T.S. Elliot, however, said something similar:

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”

It doesn’t have quite the same ring, but the thinking is the same. Regardless of who said what, I am back at The Slade for a drawing course called: Good artists copy; great artists steal.

The structure of the course will be to visit a museum or gallery in the morning and then return to the Slade in the afternoon and incorporate things we saw into a single picture, building on it each day for the duration of the course.

Now, for those who don’t know, drawing is like dancing: everyone can do it, but some are great at it and some people stink. I am in the middle, edging towards the stinking end. Mostly I find it laborious, so I don’t bother doing it; ergo, I never get any better. For some lucky folk, drawing comes naturally and what they produce is amazing. Most folk, however, have to work at it; if they do, they can produce amazingness too. Case in point: this morning at the National Portrait Gallery, I came across an early drawing by Lucian Freud (1922-2011), who was the preeminent British artist of his day.

Lucian Freud c.1930

Lucian Freud c.1930

To be fair, he did do it when he was a child; still, it shows we all have to start somewhere.

I had never been to NPG before – having never been fan of portraiture – so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. My favourite thing was a room showing small portraits of a group of men who were members of the Kit-cat Club, which was active in London in the 1700’s.

The Kit-cat Club

The Kit-cat Club

The Club got its name from its meeting place – Christopher Cat’s tavern, near Temple Bar. The tavern in turn took its name from the mutton-pies it served, called Kit-cats. Club members were made up of Whig politicians, playwrights, poets and painters. True, they weren’t the handsomest of fellows – as their portraits attest – but they did like an ale or three while putting the world to rights…and there’s nothing wrong with that! Indeed, according to one club member – Sir John Vanbrugh:

“It was the best club that ever met.”

After our visit to the Gallery, we headed back to The Slade and began working on our drawings. We each have a huge sheet of fancy paper on the wall and today we had to draw a border made up of facial features. I chose to draw eyes, which my teacher thought were chickens; which, given it’s the Slade, I’m guessing is a good thing.

Summer School – Day 5

This evening, while strolling through Russell Square Gardens, I came across  a tree dedicated to the writer, poet, playwright and rubbish husband, T.S. Eliot. Originally from Boston, Eliot spent most of his adult life in London. To do so he married a local lass, Vivienne – who, by all accounts, had a tenuous grip on reality.

Admitting he only married her to stay in the country, Elliot claimed the state of mind the marriage induced in him was his inspiration for his poem, The Waste Land. Eventually he ditched her, though not before he secured his British Citizenship. Poor old Viv couldn’t cope with the separation and ended up in a Mental Hospital, where she remained until her death. Although he remained married to her during her confinement, Eliot never visited.

Vivienne & Eliot

Vivienne & Eliot

Prior to my stroll in the park, I attended the Shabbat Shira Service at West London Synagogue and, prior to that, I had my last day at Summer School. Despite my Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony insomnia the night before, I really enjoyed the day’s lesson; mainly due to our tutor, Liz Rideal, who is very knowledgeable about art and is an excellent and expressive communicator of that knowledge.

Our tutor, Liz Rideal, on the far left.

Our tutor, Liz Rideal, on the far left.

Our task today was to make an abstract collage; I enjoyed the process (tired as I was), though I think the end result was more bits and pieces, than true abstraction (see header pic). Afterwards, we had what is known in art circles as the Crit – i.e. Critique – which is fancy for Show & Tell; wherein, we had to give a little talk about our work and the rest of the class told us what they thought of it, constructively of course. It was great to see what everyone had made, especially how different everyone’s work was, even though we’d all been given the same instructions. That’s the great thing about art as self expression: as each self is different, it stands to reason the expression of each self will be different.

Show & Tell 1

Show & Tell 1

Show & Tell 2

Show & Tell 2

Show & Tell 3

Show & Tell 3

Show & Tell 4

Show & Tell 4

Show & Tell 5

Show & Tell 5

All and all the course was brilliant. I highly recommend going to Summer School; most universities run summer programs, on all sorts of subjects. It‘s a great way to meet new people and learn something new. Personally, I’d much rather spend my summer holiday doing that than lying on a beach, but then I’m a nerd and look naff in a bikini.

Summer School – Day 4

London is VERY expensive. Lucky for me, my lovely brother sent me this text:

Just transferred £15 to your account for you to have a treat!! Whisky, takeaway, book, very cheap stripper, you choose.

I dread to think what kind of fella would be willing to take his clothes off for me for £15; what I do know is, these days, he’s unlikely to do it for free

The thing I’ve found most expensive is food; until, that is, I found a shop down the road selling 3 packets of Jammie Dodgers for £1 – which is pretty good considering they only expired 3 days ago. Now, I realise a girl can’t live on Jammie Dodgers alone; so, never fear, I also have some Fish Oil caps infused with Vitamin D, so my hair will be shiny and I won’t get Rickets.

j-d

Bargain!

The other thing about London is it’s filled with possibilities. For example, my evening ended with an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony on a rooftop in Marble Arch. But I’m getting ahead of myself; first I had a day at Summer School.

This morning we made collages in honour of Matisse. I love Matisse – as much for his art as for the man himself. He was gentle and refined and devoted to his wife and children. This is in complete contrast to his artistic contemporary and rival, Picasso; who, while an incredible artist, was a dirty rotten scoundrel when it came to women and a deadbeat Dad to his children.

A creator to the end.

Matisse – a creator to the end.

Matisse took art seriously and was relentless in his pursuit of artistic excellence all his life. Even towards the end of it – when his eyesight was failing and he could no longer paint – he spent his days cutting up bits of coloured paper and made pictures that way. The results were further evidence that he was, indeed, an artistic genius; a fact even Picasso admitted to, when he said of him:

 “There is only Matisse.”

So, that’s what we spent our morning doing – cutting up bits of coloured paper and making pictures out of them. Here is my effort:

cut-out

Not quite a Matisse, but you get the idea.

We then spent the afternoon at the British Museum. We went there to look at some collages by a Lady called Mary Delaney, who made these amazing flower pictures with cut-out bits of paper. They were very  impressive, especially since she only began making them in her 60’s. Her goal was to make 1000 before she died. Unfortunately, she pegged out at 980.

Mary Delaney's exquisite work.

Mary Delaney’s exquisite work.

After that, we could wander around the Museum and look at whatever we wanted. I didn’t want to look at anything, as there were about 5 million people in there. As I made my way to the front exit, I noticed a little room on the left hand-side that had a huge lyre hanging in it. I decided to have a wee look and, by some miracle I was the only one in there.  As I stood before the Lyre, I heard the most beautiful tinkling sound, which turned out to be the jingling of all the little trinkets hanging on it, which had been put there by the owner to appease the spirits.

Zar Lyre

Zar Lyre

It turned out, it was a very special sort of Lyre, used in Zar ceremonies in the Sudan. Although played by men, a Zar ceremony is for women – a kind of healing/exorcism type rite. A possessed woman is helped by a priestess known as a Shaykha and is placed in a trance by the Lyre playing. Once in the trance, the woman then engages in activities that are usually forbidden: i.e. dancing wildly, dressing in men’s clothing and acting aggressively towards men – giving them a piece of her mind. Understandably, it is a very popular ceremony, despite both Christianity and Islam trying to stamp in out.

On my way back to the Hall of Residence, I had the good fortunate to find the house where the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed. The Pre-Raphaelites (pictured below) were a trio of renegade painter/poets in the mid 1800’s. They favoured lush, colour saturated paintings, with lots of detail and complex compositions, which predated Raphael and the rigorous, academic art that followed him.

The Pre-Raphaelites - William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais.

William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais.

According to Wikipedia, the Brotherhood was founded on 4 core principles:

1. Have genuine ideas to express;

2. Study Nature attentively, to know how to express them;

3. Sympathise with what is direct, serious and heartfelt  in previous art.

4. Produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

Once back at the Hall, I had a quick tidy up of my shambled self and headed off to West London Synagogue. I am taking a course there that I usually do by Skype, but seeing I am in London I was able to attend in person. As always, the lesson was brilliant – thanks to the very knowledgeable, Rabbi Sybil. Afterwards, I attended a party on the roof of the Synagogue, where there was great music, delicious food and lovely people. The highlight of the evening was an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony performed by Rabbi Sybil.

Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

All and all it was a wonderful day. Indeed, the best so far!