November is a month when things recede into the earth. The American alt rock artiste, Tom Waits wrote a poignant song about November:
‘it only believes in a pile of dead leaves, and a moon that’s the colour of bone’.
But in East Anglia, through Autumnal mists, golden light anointed our third life-drawing day at the White House; shrill blue skies presided over a well organised event.
A small gathering of people keen to learn about this edifying, almost arcane activity gave their attention and enthusiasm to what turned out to be a demanding day.
In deference to Kolbe, we worked through an hour long pose to begin with. This prepared learners for a variety of exercises designed to teach control over materials and studio furniture, measurement and proportion, descriptive use of language, critical thinking and ability to interact, plus awareness of their own expressive potential within time parameters. It was our best session to date. Shame we didn’t get more attendees, but with Christmas coming and the usual need for people to be parsimonious – it wasn’t surprising.
The mighty Bruno (wood burner) filled a light, airy and characterful studio with warmth. Minute long poses put learners through their paces, eliciting essential linear responses. This was a feature of Connie Jude’s and Trevor Willoughby’s teaching at St. Martins. Contrasted with the academic approach, it refreshed learners at points in the day when otherwise they might sag.
At the Royal Academy Schools we experienced week long poses and at one point the Feroze cohort had Hilary build their own version of the Berlin Wall across the life-painting room (daft). At the Royal College of Art, Ian Dury set a week long pose and anyone who left the room wasn’t allowed back in. Not sure about toilet arrangements, sleep or anything else! Maslow wouldn’t have been impressed.
Steve kept the refreshments coming and generally worked very hard in the background, adding his own opinions and anecdotes where appropriate. John (our model for the day), performed well at his job, giving his own interpretations to some poses. Initially he studied at Middlesex poly and has modelled at the Royal Academy Schools, he knows his craft.
Students were encouraged to use sketch books and work around the model from a standing position; towards the end of the day we reiterated the ‘person staring down a well’ pose which saw use at the RAS and before that at the Academie Julian. It’s a tradition!
As promised, the day was concluded with a peer review including a glass of wine. We had the pleasure of meeting Kay from the RASEAG (Royal Academy Schools East Anglian Group). The youngest person present has just started GCSE Art & Design and showed real ability at drawing. A web designer found demonstrations and one to one tutoring helpful as an adjunct to his professional work.
‘November’s cold chain, made of wet boots and rain
and shiny black ravens on chimney smoke lane’.
Tom Waits isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, nor do I always like what he does, but his song hints at creativity during ‘the time of maximum root growth potential’. November.