It’s at this time of year, as the new academic term is about to start, that I start to get anxious about student numbers and worry about whether of not the Life Drawing courses I teach, the ones I teach at Margate Adult Education Centre, will run or not. If they don’t run I don’t get paid, and so I worry about money as too.
Margate Adult Education Centre is not well known locally. It’s a shame because the Margate Adult Education Centre is such a lovely building, it has purpose built art rooms and its right in the centre of Margate. It was built as an art college (an F.E. college) way back in 1929 (opened in 1931). The room I teach Life Drawing in is the same room in which Life Drawing was taught from the 1930s until about 1970, when it became the ‘Hilderstone’ Adult Education Centre, and has continued to be used as a Life Room until now. I’m the latest of a long succession of artists to teach Life Drawing in this space going back eighty-five years!
If rooms have ghosts then I’d like to imagine that this room’s ghosts are happiest whenever someone is in there drawing. The room’s wooden, herringbone-pattern, floor is drawn with decades’ worth of scratches and scuffs from the dragged feet of easels, chairs and tables. Scratches like this are a kind of drawing – they trace the presence of the others who were here before.
A dais, which models sometimes pose on, is the same dais pictured in a photograph of Portrait Drawing class taken in the room in 1931. The teacher seen in the photograph advising a student is ‘Mr Willis’. I’ve spoken to people who were students here in the early 1960s and all have fond memories of ‘Mr Willis’ (he was still teaching there until about 1964). He would confiscate students’ rubbers (erasers for those of you who speak American English) if they used them too much in their drawings. I wouldn’t go quite that far in my teaching practice but I like the idea. The great Walter Sickert gave three talks on drawing in the building in 1934. Sickert also insisted that students draw without rubbing out and to draw quickly, at least at the start of a drawing. Mr Willis will have attended those lectures.
We have to change our minds when we draw and the mistakes are just the evidence of those changes – they are virtuous things really and they need to be in play in our drawings if we are to make an honest drawing. When we begin a drawing of someone we don’t really know what we are in the presence of. We think we do but we don’t. We think we know what a person looks like but our first thoughts are usually just our habits of seeing and our drawing-tricks. We have to be prepared to change our minds about what we think we are in the presence of if we have any hope of getting our drawings to resemble our thoughts and perceptions.
Anyway, I’m hoping they’ll be enough students for the courses to be allowed to run and I wait to find out.
If you’re reading this and you live within striking distance of Margate, and fancy coming to my Life Drawing classes, go onto the Kent Adult Education website (https://www.kentadulteducation.co.uk/brands/mnid_123/Mr-Roy-James-Eastland.aspx) or find my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Roy-Eastland-1495390357351370/) or twitter (https://twitter.com/royeastlanddraw). I’ll be teaching courses here next term and in the future (including some all-day Saturday workshops). I’ll also be teaching Life Drawing at the Sidney Cooper Drawing Studio in Canterbury (Canterbury Christ Church University).