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21 February 2018
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Tuesday, 18th September 2012
Making marks on paper
Drawing for drawing's sake
It had been a year since I’d spent a day on the RCA Alumni Drawing Class...

Last September, I was a month into a new life – an independent designer – for the first time in nearly 30 years, I had time on my hands to do the things I promised myself I would – things that didn’t require me to sit in front of a computer for most of the day – going to see more exhibitions, learning more about the industry I was part of and...drawing – not quick scribbles to work out an idea, but proper drawing, drawing with no expectations, drawing just for the sheer pleasure of making marks on paper. I’d enjoyed that day a year ago (see previous blog post) and I’d promised back then – two things – to do more drawing and to go again the following year. 

So here I was, one year on – a Friday morning on the 3rd floor of the Stevens Building on Jay Mews, with a dozen other middle-aged ex RCA students, a not so middle-aged tutor and a beautiful young model.

Our tutor was Claudia Carr, who was keen to get going and less so on preamble. So grabbing a huge drawing board from a pile, a few sheets of A1 cartridge paper from a freshly opened ream, a few sticks of charcoal and a thick graphite pencil, I set myself up on an easel, excited to make marks on paper. We started with a number of quick poses, which didn’t give us time to get too hung up with detail – just as well! My drawings were as you’d expect, stiff and rusty (very little proper drawing had occured over the previous year). After about half an hour and suitably warmed up we did a series of quick poses using only our left hand (or the hand we didn’t normally use). These drawings were better, looser and less inhibited – so much so, that on our next pose (15 minutes), I decided to use my left hand by choice. I continued to enjoy the session which included drawing without looking at the paper – with 3 crumpled up pieces of masking tape positioned as reference points, chosen beforehand – making us feel and draw while just looking at the model. The final exercise was one minute sketches on small postcard size pieces of paper, where the challenge was to fill the sheet of paper and include all of the model on the page – much harder than it sounds. 

For lunch I was hoping to visit the Senior Common Room – a special place for eating drinking and admiring the art of ex RCA students. I’d been a member for the last five years and had yet to visit. Term hadn’t started and it was closed, so I’ve still to enjoy the experience. The refectory was open to serve London’s Art Dealers who were exhibiting in the main Darwin Building, and after a quick lunch I wandered around the exhibition, admiring work by Hirst, Banksy, Hodgkinson, Emin etc. 

Suitably inspired it was back to the drawing studio. We started by priming A4 sheets of white cartridge with charcoal – as black as we could get. We then had 6 minutes for each pose and we all attempted to recreate the mood and feel of a Degas monoprint by removing the ‘black’ to create light and shade. For someone who invariably draws just in line it was a fun experience, in creating tonal ‘drawings’ quickly – though Degas they certainly weren’t. After getting to grips with the basic technique we then attempted a larger version and had a generous 45 minutes to get our hands dirty. The longer I worked at it, the worse it looked, though Claudia was very generous with her encouragement and praise. The final drawing was to draw different poses of the model, who moved around a stationery easel at 5 minute intervals. 5pm and home time. The day had whizzed by. I took quick snaps of my drawings (to see, click on the thumbnails above) and dashed off to catch my train home. 

Claudia Carr is a great teacher and teaches ‘looking’ – proportion, scale, tone and how one things relates to another spatially, are what you learn on her course. In one day I learnt a lot. Looking at my 'drawings' later, it was obvious that the most successful were the ones I'd done with my left hand – the ones where I'd had less control and just enjoyed the experience of drawing with little expectation – this was more than anything the biggest lesson I learnt – just to 'let go'.