(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.
Teaching, drawing, writing and painting.