I am very excited that my Life Drawing class dates at the National Centre for Craft and Design have been confirmed!
Sat 3rd Jun, Sat 1st Jul, Sat 5th Aug, Sat 2nd Sep
and how about this for my marketing blurb:
‘This season our monthly Life Drawing classes will be taught by Ewa Szypula. An experienced tutor and a regularly exhibited and commissioned artist, Ewa teaches a variety of drawing techniques in her classes, allowing you to develop your artistic practice by approaching drawing in a variety of ways and thus cultivating your own style. Her monthly sessions can be enjoyed on their own as one-off classes, or can be taken consecutively in order to build on the techniques learnt in previous sessions.’
So what can you expect from a life drawing class?
As a life drawing enthusiast, I have been on a whole load of them, and I have found that no two classes by two different tutors are ever the same. Tutors tend to have different approaches to how they choose to lead their class – and this includes approaches on how much actual ‘teaching’ happens. I have been to life drawing classes where I was left to get on with my own drawing for the entire time, without any input from the teacher, except maybe an occasional glance over my shoulder and a nod. I have also been to classes where there was a lot more input from the teacher – explaining, demonstrating, introducing new techniques.
To be honest, there isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ way to lead a life drawing class. And sometimes people do not really want to be taught so much as they just want to have a play. Maybe seven or eight years ago, I went along to one drawing class where the tutor tried to get us students to draw short poses in quick succession, then rub out everything we drew each time, and start the next pose on the same piece of paper. I, a young student with a head full of my own ideas, for some reason didn’t take kindly to this suggestion, and thought this rubbing out and starting again sounded rather pointless – so I ignored the teacher’s instructions and just proceeded to do drawing after drawing in my own sketchbook, one per page. The tutor noticed (of course) and tried gently to get me involved in the activity; I just smiled, looked politely interested, and ignored her. I guess at that point, I had been mostly used to drawing classes where there wasn’t much instruction; the idea that someone was asking me to do a specific task I didn’t want to do, and the value of which I couldn’t see, was sort of baffling to me. It maybe didn’t help that I considered myself to be a bit of an artiste extraordinaire (ah, the confidence of youth), and the idea of drawing something, then rubbing out that drawing and starting again, sounded nothing short of sacrilegious to me. (‘What do you mean, rub out my drawing??… My drawings are for keeping!…’)
So I sat happily in my seat and worked in my own way, while others scrubbed out and re-drew their drawings all around me; and I produced a series of tidy-looking, ‘correct’, and actually, it pains me to say, pretty uninspiring drawings.
Fast forward to today, and I wish I could go back in time, sit down in that room again, and do what that teacher had suggested. I was so fixated on the idea of producing a ‘nice’ drawing that I really couldn’t see the value of producing one which was rubbed out and continually started again, with traces of the previous poses underneath the final result. Now that I’m a bit older and wiser (and now that I’ve encountered a few more teachers, who have managed to convince me to try new things – and, occasionally, to ‘destroy’ my own work), I not only see the artistic value of ‘rubbing out’ and creating a palimpsestic sketch in which previous reworkings are still visible – but I also see the point of not being too precious about your work. Sitting there in that room, my twenty-something self was interested only in producing either a pretty drawing or a masterpiece, and unwilling to consider creating something loose and perhaps silly or playful, or ‘wrong’. This rigid adherence to norms of ‘artistic perfection’ leaves little room for happy accidents to occur.
One of my all-time favourite drawings is one which my tutor Sofie asked me to draw with my left hand. We were doing three-minute warm-ups with charcoal on paper, and the idea was to try using your non-dominant hand for them. ‘Because then you have fewer expectations, and so you let go of the idea of producing the perfect drawing and can relax and enjoy yourself’, my teacher explained. Out of nowhere, in three minutes I produced what I considered an extremely good drawing. It was not only well-proportioned – and good proportions can be the hardest thing to achieve – but it was lively, dynamic, attractive. Had I been drawing with my right hand, I would have expected to be able to produce a ‘good’ drawing, and would have been disappointed if it had gone wrong.
Now that I teach drawing classes myself, I try to remind myself of these kinds of stories. It is important to provide some degree of instruction; there is nothing more frustrating than attending a drawing class and standing there struggling on your own while the tutor offers no help. Yet at the same time it is important to remember that there are many reasons why students may reject attempts at teaching, and offers of help, if these feel too tightly structured, or irrelevant, or if they seem somehow counter-intuitive to what the students are trying to achieve. Some students come to your life drawing classes to simply have fun on a Saturday; some are hoping to learn a new skill; while some have an idea for a drawing in their head, and that’s all they want to achieve from the class. If that is the case, the teacher’s attempts at instruction may well seem to them like a waste of time. That’s not to say I shouldn’t try and teach them – but I think I should, above all, make them feel like they can choose to have a go at following my instructions, or not; and if they do, they will still get another opportunity to try their own project.
So here I am, dates all confirmed, looking forward to it – armed with charcoal sticks and paper and a head full of ideas – and this useful advice from my younger self: teach a little, but don’t forget to play.
To book a life drawing session with Ewa, visit the NCCD website
or contact the NCCD bookings team at 01529 308710