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.