I’ve been looking through some drawings done as demonstrations for drawing exercises in my Life Drawing classes. The new term of Life Drawing courses at Margate Adult Education Centre starts this week.
This drawing is from a drawing exercise about relooking and moving on to the next moment. In this exercise the model holds a pose for a short amount of time and then moves to a second position and then back to the first and then back again to the second, three times over. In this drawing the model probably held the poses for about 15 seconds each time but the students usually get a minute and then 30 seconds each time. What the drawer is drawing is different each time and even if it were humanly possible for the model to reoccupy the exact-same pose the drawer will have changed their mind about what they find interesting, what they see and what they think. We look and make a decision and then we must move on to the next moment and let the drawing be what it is. The ‘finished’ drawing will be the traces of the accumulated decisions and there are always choices to be made (are we thinking about the edges, proximity, tone, angles, the course of a line, the character of the line, the weight of the mark, the sharpness, the touch… etc?). The line is a good line if it is an honest line responding to the changes of mind. In drawing a line we change our minds.
This exercise makes us more aware of the way that drawing ‘The Figure’ is never about drawing something complete and settled. All is in time and our line traces those moments and says “for this moment this was the case and this is as close as I could get to it”. Drawing like this acknowledges the fact that there are always multiple version of the same thing and our drawn lines don’t need to agree on the matter in order to be correct.
I teach Life Drawing at Margate Adult Education Centre, The Sidney Cooper Gallery (Canterbury Christ Church University) and occasionally at other places too. We presently need a few more people to enrol on the Thursday morning Life Drawing for it to be allowed to run and so book a place asap please if you’re interested.
Here is a link to the courses I teach at the Kent Adult Education: https://www.kentadulteducation.co.uk/brands/mnid_123/Mr-Roy-James-Eastland.aspx
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).
This drawing is an A4 pencil drawing (Moleskine sketch book and HB pencil if you like to know about that sort of stuff). It was drawn during one of Life Drawing classes that I teach. Here is a blog post from my ‘a-n’ blog (‘I Draw’; https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/i-draw).
It’s one of any number of sketchbook drawings that were never drawn to be finished Works of Art “…They are drawings done for drawing’s sake (drawing as a way of thinking about drawing). They are drawings of people who were still (or fairly still) for maybe ten or twenty minutes. They are drawings of people but drawings of people are never just hand-made pictures of people. Drawings trace moments in time.
Hand-drawn lines take time and the moment of their making is subtly replayed each time someone spends time to notice them. There are heavy lines, sharp lines, long lines, feathery lines… the variety is endless and each of them implies the presence of a thought. We change our minds as we draw and our lines capture those moments of change. We look and we notice something and we try to track the gist of it on the paper. The time taken to draw even the shortest line is there to see in its entirety all at once (like seeing a tiny life-span played out on the page).
We pay attention to the simple presence of things whenever we draw. The drawing is always wrong. We look again and we make another line. Each time it is wrong in a different way but sometimes the mark is good in spite of its wrongness. Sometimes the line feels true or it does something interesting (something we couldn’t have predicted but which is more interesting than anything we could have predicted). It’s enough that just a small part of a drawing is interesting for it to feel good. As we make our mark we are bringing into play all our momentary perceptions, all our skill and memories of all the other drawings we have ever seen.
Eventually the time is up and the pose ends and all that remains of the moment, and of the protagonists, is the drawing. One day the drawing will be the only thing left of that moment. Perhaps we make ghosts when we draw.
I don’t get to draw people as much as I’d like to. These drawings were done quickly in Life Drawing groups of at odd moments while teaching Life Drawing (in Margate and Canterbury). I have about a hundred and sixty filled-up sketchbooks to date (filled up with drawings like these ones) and the drawings will remain in those books and one day, if they survive longer than I do, they will be in the hands of someone else. I wonder what will become of them.”
This is just a quick A4 sketchbook drawing of someone. It’s nothing special but some of its lines have their moments. The model moved quite a lot but that isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. If a person repeatedly shifts their position I might work on more than one drawing and flit between them. A drawing is a sort of playing-field on which lines gather and trace the drawer’s changes-of-mind. The attention is repeatedly focused on what is momentarily present in the line of sight. The drawing is what remains of moments spent paying attention to the presence of someone else. I have about a hundred and sixty filled-up sketchbooks and this drawing is in one of the recent ones. I wonder what will become of all these drawings.
Anyway, posting this image also gives me an excuse to let you know that I now have a twitter account and that I’ll use it occasionally and you can follow it if you like. Here’s the link: #royeastlanddraw https://twitter.com/royeastlanddraw
These drawings weren’t made to be works of art; these are demonstration drawings done as part of the Life Drawing classes I teach at Margate Adult Education Centre and at The Sidney Cooper Gallery in Canterbury. These are drawings of people holding a pose for about 15-20 seconds and then moving to a second pose and then repeating the first, and so on, three times over. The students get a minute or 30 seconds for each pose. Here are a few thoughts about this particular drawing exercise.
Everything changes. This exercise acknowledges that fact that we draw within a continual state of flux and change. The model resumes each of the poses three times but each time there will be subtle and not so subtle changes in the model’s position. the changes in positions are inevitable. Even if it was humanly possible for the model to re-occupy the exact-same position each time, you (the person drawing) will have changed as your time moves on; we are not quite the same person we were a moment ago and drawing can make us more aware of this change.
The drawer gets three goes at drawing each of the two poses. You might notice something different each time and you might want to draw something different each time. Let the drawing have its way: it is ahead of you, see what comes into the drawing. There isn’t time to rub out and start again. There isn’t time to finish a picture of a person. What you are drawing isn’t a picture of a person: what you are drawing is what you notice about someone’s momentary presence (an angle, nearness and distance, an edge, structure, a line etc). You must make your decisions within those short moments that you have to play with.
Your line is the trace of all the little changes of mind that took place as the charcoal in your hand made its nervous way across the surface of the paper. Your line has its own ‘life-story’ of beginning, changing and coming to an end (not a finish or completion but simply an end). As you make your mark you will notice that parts of your lines happen to agree with what you saw or thought and other parts of your line lose or never did make that that connection. Let it be and start a new line. Sometimes you’ll make a good line. This way of drawing is looks forward to the next moment and the next change of mind
Get in touch with the Sidney Cooper Gallery (Canterbury) or the Margate Adult Education Centre if you’d like to come along to the Life Drawing sessions.
LIFE DRAWING IS GOOD FOR YOU!
Here’s a link to the Kent Adult Education Life Drawing classes I teach: https://www.kentadulteducation.co.uk/brands/mnid_123/Mr-Roy-James-Eastland.aspx
Here are some pictures of Margate Adult Education Centre. The Margate Adult Education Centre is right in the town centre, on the corner of Hawley Square (a pretty Georgian-period Square with some lovely old trees on the green).
I teach Life Drawing here on Wednesday mornings and Thursday evenings. I also teach a few all-day sessions here and people come from as far away as London and Essex to come to them. I love it, and I love teaching in this building. It was built in 1929 and was opened, as ‘The Thanet School of Art’, in 1931. It became an Adult Education Centre (known then as ‘Hilderstone’) in the 1970s and has been used for Kent Adult Education classes ever since.
Life Drawing has been practiced in this very same ‘Life Room’ for more than 80 years!
Hardly anyone knows about the place.
I’ve posted some more pictures of the place on my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Roy-Eastland/1495390357351370?ref=hl
Anyone interested in coming along should contact the centre (03000414018) or go to the Thanet section of the Kent Adult Education website (www.kentadulteducation.co.uk) and type my name into the search box.
I’ve installed an exhibition of my drawings and sketchbooks in The Drawing Room of The Beaney in Canterbury (the full name for the museum is: ‘The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge’ but that’s a bit of a mouth full and so everyone calls it ‘The Beaney’). It’s on until 5th January 2014. http://www.canterbury.co.uk/Beaney/explore/Armchair-Residency-Roy-Eastland.aspx
Here is a draft of the fourth blog for my Artist Residency at The Beaney:
The Beaney House of Knowledge and Art: The Front Room ‘Armchair Artist Residency’ blog.
Blog number four, December 2013:
I’ve installed an exhibition of my drawings and sketchbooks in The Drawing Room at The Beaney. I managed to squeeze everything that is in the exhibition into a couple of large shoulder bags and lug the whole lot over to Canterbury on the number 8 bus. The journey from Margate takes the best part of an hour and I’ve been doing this trip a lot since becoming the ‘Front Room Artist Armchair Resident’. This journey has become an important aspect of my ‘Residency’ at The Beaney. The bus takes me along a line in the landscape which has been there for centuries. Upstairs at the front of the bus is a good place to sit and notice things and to let my mind wander and to notice myself noticing.
My exhibition consists of twenty sketchbooks and sixteen loose drawings (I’ve posted a video tour of it on my youtube channel to give you an idea of it). The loose drawings were done in The Beaney as part of the ‘Front Room Artist Armchair residency’ and the sketchbooks are all recent ones containing drawings of people. When I installed the work I made the decision to place drawings so that they might subtly relate to each other or direct the gaze in certain ways. There is no hidden message or overarching theme here. I simply thought that their placing might bring something extra into play in the mind of the viewer – it is whimsical. I offer my drawings as things to look at and it’s up to the viewer to look at the drawings and notice things and let the mind wander.
None of these drawings were done for the purpose of being exhibited. They weren’t designed as ‘Works of Art’ or with an exhibition in mind. Each drawing was done separately and for its own sake. If they share a theme, it is that they are all drawings that pay attention to the physical presence of things. There are drawings of inanimate objects (made of marble, bronze and silver) that were made to look like people and there are drawings of real people being still. It’s a wonderful thing when someone is happy to be still and let you draw them. If I did nothing else with my life, drawing people would be a good use of a lifetime. I wish I could do it more often.
We change our minds when we draw. ‘Objective Drawing’ is a process of continual revision (a good rule-of-thumb is that if your drawing isn’t going wrong then you’re just not trying hard enough!). Drawings are the trace-evidence of a mind making sense of things. They show us that someone was here and that they were interested in the presence of someone or of something outside of themselves.
Across the room from my drawings is a small oblong-shaped piece of vellum covered in neat pen-and-ink hand-writing: The Godwine Charter. A thousand years ago it had a practical function as a legal document but now it has an afterlife as an object of contemplation in a museum. We can appreciate it as a kind of drawing. Hand-writing and the kind of lines you find in drawings are similar things. Both of them are products of human touch and of the time it took to draw them. That particular human presence and that particular moment of time are subtly replayed every time another person sees it. It is both trivial and wonderful. A similar effect can be felt in places too. My bus journey to Canterbury draws me along a line in the landscape which was already old when that scribe’s pen was forming those letters on that piece of vellum which sits across the room from my drawings.
Museums are full of things that have survived to hint at what was here and what took place. They put us in company with people separated from us by a distance of time. I wonder how long my sketchbooks will last. I wonder what will become of them. I wonder who my drawings are for.