(Read my introduction here…)
As a student of drawing I’m attending this course to learn more about anatomy; as a tutor I’m seeking out exemplary classes taught by exemplary tutors to help me improve my own teaching. With this course the expectation is pretty high; Sarah Simblet has written the definitive contemporary book on anatomy for artists and the Ruskin School (part of Oxford University) is one of the most prestigious centers of art education in the country, in addition to that the course costs around £1000 for seven days.
My first impressions are excellent. The building feels totally appropriate for the course; it is light, spacious, and suffused with a sense of history. Sarah greets us all individually and refreshments are in ample supply. Sarah is warm and welcoming and her introduction eloquently delivered, setting the tone for the days teaching.
What we did
We begin drawing right away, great! No time to get self-conscious. We’re working from a full-length skeleton, making a detailed observational study on A1 paper in HB and 4B pencil hour. Sarah provides a loose brief for the exercise, providing one to one input. Everybody is fully engaged, the room is pleasantly quiet, but for the scratching of pencils.
After lunch we launch into a larger-than-life study of the ribcage. This time we are given clear direction on the attitude to take: this drawing is not an exercise in rib counting so much as an attempt to capture the feel of the ribcage. We are encouraged to think of it like a vessel, a pot. The exercise is simple but challenging and I’m pleased with my initial progress. Sarah pitches her 1:1 feedback perfectly and whilst being kind and encouraging throughout she provides me with solid, honest feedback and well considered criticism. She’s right; my sternum does look like a caterpillar when it should look like a sword blade. I am given a route to improve my drawing and encouragement to see it through, with added anatomical context.
Drawing is a very physical act and having begun the days travelling at 5am I was flagging a little by the afternoon ‘History of Anatomy’ lecture. It was fascinating, well-delivered and hammered home Sarah’s consummate knowledge and passion for her subject. After an hour and thirty minutes I was happy to end the day without questions, but kudos to my classmates for their enthusiastic hand raising.
First and last impressions of a course are key and this course has started on the right foot. I was warmly greeted and have finished exhausted, satisfied with the day’s classes and looking forward to tomorrow.
Whilst giving conversational feedback Sarah managed to cover a whole list of key lessons in drawing; all the best drawing tutors I know drop a ‘tick list’ of key points into classes and conversations. Top marks to Sarah for subtle delivery of some critical points.
A thing I learnt
The sternum has three sections, the Manubrium, Sternum and Zyphoid, representing three parts of a Roman dagger: handle, blade and point. Sternum is not latin for caterpillar.
I’m currently studying for an imaginary PHD. Like my imaginary BA and my imaginary MA there is no formal course structure, no set curriculum and no accredited body to award me my grade. I don’t actually hold any qualifications above a Foundation Art and Design diploma from UCA Farnham, I have however spend the past 7 years putting myself through a rigorous program of informal training in the arts and have had the privilege to learn from a plethora of excellent tutors, peers and artists.
My imaginary PHD involves me allowing myself to spend/lose several thousand pounds and to devote several months of the next few years pursing my interest in drawing in greater depth than my regular work requires. Alongside my own drawing and painting I am undergoing a comprehensive survey of drawing literature and attempting to study with or interview all of the writers, teachers and artists who’s work I most admire; I’ll be writing two more books on drawing with Ilex Press (‘Life Drawing in Fifteen Minutes’ and ‘Draw’) and will be continuing my regular teaching at Draw but the ultimate outcome of my ‘PHD’ is as yet undecided. Suffice to say at some point I’ll be fraudulently referring to myself as Dr. Spicer.
This lengthy pre-amble is intended to introduce my impending blog posts on the first structured course I’ll be taking as part of my study, ‘Art and Anatomy’ at the prestigious Ruskin School of Art. The course is an intensive seven day summer school taught by Dr. Sarah Simblet (she’s got a real PHD), author of ‘Anatomy for the Artist’ published by Dorling Kindersley.
I’ll be blogging my way through the course for the rest of this week; each post will contain anecdotes from the day, some of my drawings and my take on the day’s class, both as a student of drawing and as a tutor. You can find out more about the course itself here.
Bit saccarine, pleased with the composition and the dressing gown. It was a lovely pose from Laura. Painted at the Saturday long pose at Draw, 10x12'' on oil primed board, with a palette of Cadmium Red, Naples Yellow, Burnt Siena, Ultramarine Blue, Zinc White and a touch of refined linseed oil.
The week of the 14th April was my first back after being away. Monday night’s Egon Schiele themed Drawing Circus proved an unmitigated success, seamlessly planned by Shelley Morrow and attended in force by the glitterati of the Brighton life drawing circuit (Paul Cemmick, Mark Harrison, Geo Parkin etc, even Graham Hanney made it along). The nights drawing was preceded by a surprise interview with the charming Boogaloo Stu in the insalubrious surroundings of the Juice FM headquarters on North Road; we talked Speiegeltent Drawing Circus on air and off air reflected on the compromises that accompany the commercial success of the Proud Ballroom.
Monday’s literal Circus was a prelude to a metaphorical three-ringer of a Thursday. An 8am life drawing gig for Tom & Nic’s Heart FM breakfast show (life drawing on the radio?!) provided a lively opening act. The big cats came next: my long time student Simon continued his current cat obsession in our morning 1:1 drawing class, breaking out the oil pastels for the first time in months.
The afternoon took on a more serious tone in a two hour meeting with between the tenants of New England House and Nick Hibberd, head of Brighton & Hove City Regeneration, where he received an overdue grilling on the council’s ill-conceived plans to redevelop our beloved studio complex.
I had time to play ring master (holding an off-program life drawing class in the main studio for my Creative Future students) before running away to The Old Market to celebrate the third birthday of my favorite Brighton theatre with an ambassadorial reception of Brighton arty-types.
Finally the acrobats: courtesy of TOM we all reveled in an hour of gravitationally inverted delight watching a performance of ‘Leo’ which left me with a smile, distorted proprioception and an unrelated craving for sweet potato chips.
[Pictures from the week]
Compressed charcoal drawings... Johanna 15 mins / Johanna 1 min / Laura Kate O'rourke 3 min
Classes... Portrait class at Cass art / Simon's class at Draw / Drawing Circus at The Old Market
Littering the internet
Ive never been very good at maintaining personal blogs. At 20 I set up a (quickly defunct) Blogger account and I've had a long running, poorly maintained Tumblr blog since then, which I am retiring in favour of writing via my own website (i.e here). Im approaching this blog with the aim of keeping the website fresh, as updates to the core content happen quarterly at best. Hopefully it will be successful as a complimentary addition to the site's content; if this blog post is still the only one up here in August then you'll know I've failed.
By way of introduction
Have a look at home page of this site for a little bit of biography. I spend most of my time teaching drawing, writing about drawing and drawing, so expect lots of that in future posts. I run the small, independent drawing school Draw in Brighton, co-direct the Drawing Circus and I paint, mostly in oils.
What you'll see on here
I'll aim to keep the posts regular and informative, with a mixture of reviews (of exhibitions, drawing books and art materials), posts about my own artwork, teaching drawing and a few thoughts on drawing theory. I'll save flagrant self promotion for Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks for reading,
Teaching, drawing, writing and painting.