More work made by the girls that I was teaching in Stevenage.

About two years after I had starting teaching the Headmistress asked if the children could design some wallpaper for her study, there were lots of interesting ideas, I wish I had them all but I could only kept three of them.

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Above.     Made with overprinted lino blocks. One colour printed first and the same block inked with a different colour and shifted along half a block before being overprinted.

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Lino block again. The vertical block turned like the reflection in a mirror printed in black on a textured paper.

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The younger children, used potato prints. It is amazing how such an attractive pattern can be produced using the simplest of blocks. Before we used the blocks I had done lots of Marian Richardson type hand writing patterns with them so that they understood the principle of one unit being put together in different ways.

In the end she chose the black and white one. I used the block they had made and printed it onto wood chip paper by hand. What a labour it was, ( I didn’t want to inflict that onto the children and it is not a group activity) fortunately she only wanted it for one wall! It was hard work, one false move and you’d ruined a roll.

Homework.  Below.  Your own feet in the bath.

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I imagine that a lot of teachers find marking homework a chore but I always loved it, you never knew what you were going to find. I think I was lucky because on the whole they tried very hard and most enjoyed it. I always find artists sketch and notebooks amongst the most exciting things they do. Think of Turners little note books in Tate Britain how interesting and alive they are.

Below….I did a lot of monoprinting with them, for some it seems less scary than doing ‘a painting’,  the prints are more immediate you can’t fiddle around and overwork the image like you can on a painting, it’s more like play. You can wipe the ink  off the plate and start again so easily

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In another session we were thinking about dark and light tones and I asked them to think of something that would show a big jump from dark to light colour, we looked at colour swatches and someone came up with this idea of a sweep, very dark and a bride. Iris had just been to her sisters wedding where her uncle (the sweep) came in his gear to bring good luck. This is one of them, I like it’s strange intensity.grammersweep

On another occasion we were looking at the effect of light. I had darkened the studio and given them all torches. They got into pairs and drew the effect of the torch light falling on faces with charcoal. I then asked them to think of events that they encountered in their lives where there might be these extremes of light . Here are two of them, below fish and chip stall in the town centre.

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and below buskers at night outside the town cinema.

Grammarstagelights I did masses of work on colour… warm and cool… complimentary… tonal… colour wheels. etc All these lessons involved looking at artists whose work was appropriate and trying to think of what the painter was trying to do. We also looked at examples from the design centre and in those days you could get folders of photographs of well designed goods. I can remember looking at one of their folders, with a class, on the design of table ware. There was one big display sheet that showed drinking glasses, at the top there were images of well designed glasses and at the bottom poorly designed ones. Two hands shot up to say they had  the badly designed ones and they liked them. I stopped getting the folders from then on as I began to think that the designs in them were too sterile and predictable, the taste of a particular class of people and a bit humourless. Ther’s a lot to be said for a bit of bad taste now and then!

Below…using warm colours…stall in the town centre. grammalightstallrsch3

Of course there was another factor in all this the equivalent then of O and A level. We had done lots of drawings from observation all the way from the first year so that was just a straightforward continuum. The main test was in imaginative composition. On the exam day, they opened the paper and it would give a choice of about five subjects and they had about two or three hours in which to complete it. Later in schools it was changed so that they knew the subject weeks beforehand and were able to make preliminary sketches and experiments, the preparatory work being part of the test.

Once again I was often staggered by the quality of the work they did in class. If it was an imaginative composition I always made sure there was some visual point to it that followed up the exercises we had been doing from the beginning.

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Here are three of them.  Above the subject was something like Autumn Garden. Our caretaker had been burning the leaves.

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Above…factories.

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Above.  Winter landscape.

Now the snag. They could get good marks with paintings like these (and I want to say here that I love them for their sensitivity) but they are considered to be a throw back to the old style of NDD in art schools. Art schools had now moved on in different ways and in some this type of work was frowned upon almost ridiculed. I had loads of pupils going on to art schools but more than one promising student was destroyed by the system. Too many art schools in my view were trying to break students down in order to reform them in their own image, I thought it was pretty cruel. The more flamboyant students could stand it but too many were destroyed. You end up getting clones and yes men. At one point it was Basic Design that was all the rage. I’m not against basic design but it is not for everybody. You just happen to be lucky if it suits your natural way of thinking at the time it is ‘in’.  At one point it was more or less declared that painting was dead. My granddaughter was at Leeds when performance art was all the thing, fortunately it suited her down to the ground and she got a first but it didn’t suit everybody and I hope that those who wanted to go in a different direction were allowed to do so. I prefer the Corsham way, finding out what a person wants to do and  helping them do it, it can still be rigorous and logically it should move somebody towards the next step and away from their comfort zone, but in their own way.. It was also a sort of atelier experience where tutors were creating their own work, in many different styles at the same time.

As well as the students who gave up after a bit I had a few that went on to great distinction. Jane Weedon became Professor of Drawing at the Slade, Jane Perryman is a world renowned potter and yoga teacher. The author several books on firing without a kiln ie raku and bonfire firing. She is an expert on the village pottery of India.

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Lyn who became head of a training school for Art Therapists and countless teachers and lecturers like me. But above all as I stated at the beginning I am proud of the number of old pupils who have told me that it has enriched their lives. It doesn’t mean to say that they practice art but that they have learned to love and respect the arts, go to exhibitions, read books, watch films go to classes, book clubs etc. and to pass this on to their children.

 

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