Art at School

I took an old art folder into work the other day to scan some of the contents. Just some artefact drawings for use in a book I am working on. As well as those, there was some of my old drawings from School and Art college, though oddly, nothing from the life drawing class I did at University. (clearly charcoal daubings of an obese ginger woman left some sort of mental scar). I decided to scan them in, and put some up in stages on here.

It got me thinking about how my attitude to drawing has changed so much over the years. I used to like it when I was a kid. Not all the time, and mostly on my own terms; designing aeroplanes, formula one tracks, my own F1 cars, comic books, etc, nothing startling, just drawing stuff I liked it. I think all kids do, its part of the process of taking ownership and understanding things.

Secondary school art became one of my favourite lessons, probably because it was a complete doss. Our main teacher was Miss Blakeman, who was as mad as a box of frogs. She looked like a Quentin Blake drawing brought to life, she was fat, mostly wore black with bright tie dyed scarves, and chaotic white hair scratched back into a bun. I reckon only 50% of her hair ever stayed in the bun at any one time, the rest frizzing out in spidery lines like she had just been shocked. She had really thick glasses (which spent a good deal of time propped up on her head) with MASSIVE black eyes behind, and wide flat frog mouth. She was also scatty, we’d often spend 10-15 minutes of class time looking for her glasses, which we could all see on her head. She could be quite sharp sometimes, and dopey the next, and some days she could not be doing with us, and others she had a real sense of humour. In this instance, I think excentric is actually justified.

We used to have to do weird stuff for homework like drawing onions, and toothpaste tubes, and glasses, or tools from the garage. These are just a few of the ones I kept.

I nearly always used colour pencils, I loved my big tin set of German pencils from the Milnthorpe art shop. I still love going into art shops and looking at the raw materials. They were quite expensive, but I was pretty good at art at school, so my folks bought me them. They were so much better than the scratchy Derwents everyone else had, with thick and deep colours, and really waxy. I loved them.

The perspective and pencil marks on that lying down wine glass still makes me cringe now.

I like raw pencil too, one of the few instances, where I started to appreciate seeing the pencil marks. I later went to see a Lucien Freud exhibition in Kendal (yeah, I know?) and I totally loved the brush work and the colours in his drawings.

I suppose the stand out thing about these is that I appear to have actually done my homework, which to be honest, was rarely the case elsewhere.

I sometimes drew in my own time. I spent a good deal of time in 6th form free periods drawing the below picture of Damon Hill’s Williams over taking Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. I would sit in the common room with my pencils and draw. I can’t imagine doing that anymore, either the free time or the activity! I was just drawing something I liked, because I liked it, and I liked drawing and was bored, there was perhaps also an element of attempting to impress a lady or two, and make myself look occupied, when most my mates were on different schedules to me.

I never did any really experimental stuff, I just don’t think it occurred to me, I guess I was a bit dull like that. Art was just making or drwaing something, I don’t think I had any idea about abstraction. The classes were fairly traditional, but then again, they can’t have all been like that, as some of the pupils did some awesome abstract sculptures and paintings. Perhaps, they were just good at encouraging people in the right way and their own interests, rather than the one size fits all approach. I remember doing a great World War One picture which was a bit abstract, pretty dark and weird, which I no longer have.

Our school was always one for showing work on the wall. I think every one of these pictures spent some time on the school walls, and they changed most of them every few weeks. Some I never got back, they are possible still up there for all I know. We also did a lot of murals on the walls themselves.

I remember we spent a whole week at one point doing some abstract sculptures of large slate and cement ovals and spheres, kinda like big pine cones. I loved doing those, though I didn’t really think much about the art or any aesthetic value of what we were doing, I just liked the process of making it, and being outside with cement and slate, and the radio, and tea and biscuits.

When it came to exams, they were an exercise of putting some objects of varying textures on a table, and making us sit and draw them for 6-7 hours. I quite liked it, we could really chat, but we could have our Walkman, so I listened to music and just drew. Here are a couple of exam pieces, I’m not sure which exams, but I think they were 6th form, and the trumpet may well be one of my A-level submissions. The duck was oil pastels, which I only discovered quite late, and freaking loved.

The thing that stands out to me, is how much I loved (still do) creating deep saturated colours. Some pupils would do amazing drawings, with much lighter pencil work, but I didn’t want to, I wanted a thick deep layer of colour. Even on the above drawings, the pencil marks from lightly shaded colour pencil used to annoy me, I wanted to eradicate that. I think it’s why I liked oil pastels, they were so deep, and so easy to blend and lay down this vibrant waxy smooth layer of colour.

I think that’s all I was interested in when I drew this flag, just getting it distilled to almost cartoon shaded brightness. This bold and exaggerated version of what it really was. Although, when I had actually done it, I was annoyed with it as it looked plastic.

I wonder if this might have been a direction I could have taken my drawing and art, perhaps more abstraction in this fashion, vibrant colour, and caricature and detail have always been something I have been drawn to. It is difficult to know how much is ingrained in us, and how much is taught. Either way, after my A-levels, with no damn clue what I wanted to do, as an act of desperation I headed to art college in Lancaster in the hopes that it would perhaps be something I was enthused to do, though it was to prove quite a bit different.

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