Atelier / at.el.ier / atl’ya
n. A workshop or studio especially used by an artist or designer
The beginning is always the hardest part.
Whether it is about making a new friend, moving abroad, starting a new course or writing this very blog post, the first step towards the unknown always seems like a giant leap of faith and madness compared to the baby steps that follow.
I’m filled with excitement and nerves as I rush into the classroom. It’s the first session of this year’s Atelier course and I have already missed the first half for having been naked on the other side of the town.
For the third time now the lovely Jake Spicer is running a comprehensive 60 day figure drawing course at Draw at the New England House. In other words, for the next 30 weeks or so a bunch of us will gather together on every Tuesday from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm in order to get really, really good at drawing naked people.
With occasional exceptions of clothed poses, of course.
Well, there are plenty of reasons for one to want to master the skill of life drawing. For example: It’s fun, meditative and challenging, it makes you really look at what you’re supposedly seeing, and of course on the break there’s tea and biscuits.
Personally, I wanted to do the course because it has been ages since I used to do any visual arts regularly and (for the reasons listed above) I do really miss it. I did art for my A levels and loved it, but that was what feels like a lifetime ago, so it is like being a complete beginner again.
Also, it should not go without mentioning that I do life modelling for a living (thus the absurd excuse for being late) so I do know this classroom fairly well - just from the other side of the easel.
So here we are. The tutored part is over and it is time for the first drawing session. Half a circle of concentrated faces, drawing boards in laps, pens and pencils scattered around. Lights on, dressing gown off.
What I am experiencing as I start drawing strangely reminds me of when I first got rid of my bike stabilisers. I get a little bit too excited about how fast I can go and how sharp I can turn. Suddenly I am aware I will hit the wall -NO, NO, NO!- but the realisation is completely irrelevant in terms of correcting anything. It comes way too late, when I’m already completely out of control and the time is out. I know what I want the wheels (or in this case, the pencil) to do but my current coordination skills fall short of my grand vision.
And so, -BANG - wrong it goes.
But as said, the beginning is always the hardest part. I sign, seal and deliver my first drawings to the future me; in the end of the course we’ll go back to them so that we can smugly laugh at our old selves and feel great about how far we’ve come. Hopefully.
Alongside the Atelier runs Atelier II. (I know. Original, right?) It is much like the Atelier but instead of drawing the focus is on painting. My greed wouldn’t let me stay away so I’m back again for the second day.
It feels less like a bike crash this time, maybe partly because I did make it to the introduction and got my dose of caffeine before we started painting. I manage to chop Bella the Model’s legs a bit short but apart from that I am rather pleased with the first tonal painting of my life.
Tonal painting, as I have now learned, is that thing where with just one colour (usually brown, right?) and a thinner (might’ve been turpentine, but just Turps amongst friends) one creates a picture of lights and shadows to suggest where to later slap the blobs of colour. (These are all accurate quotes using professional vocabulary, courtesy of the brilliant Jake Spicer, by the way. Or not. But he did say something great about a sieve and sand - some artistic comparison that I will try to remember for the next blog post.)
Here’s what I made of Bella:
And to finish this post off: In the bit that I missed in the beginning, everyone was asked to make a self-portrait. I made one as homework, too. I would like to emphasise that this is my concentrated face that hardly anyone hardly ever sees. I am actually a nice person, unlike the self-portrait may suggest.
So this is the end of the beginning. I am relieved and exhausted yet absolutely excited to go back. And curious to see how long it will take before I can paint like this:
Oil on canvas
By Laura Nenonen
Laura is a life model at Draw and is attending the Draw Atelier 2014/15. Laura will be keeping a weekly diary of her experiences on the course, published weekly on this blog.