The Drawing Year 2013
BA Fine Art Printmaking, University of Brighton
While working on a six month residency at the Muse Gallery in Portobello Road after leaving university, I realised that if I were to push my work forward, beyond my own imagination and memory, I needed to expand my knowledge and strengthen my techniques. I really wanted to be based in London where art is everywhere and the diversity of courses that made up The Drawing Year offered an intense programme. This really appealed to me. I was unsuccessful on my first attempt, but I knew that I wanted and needed to try again.
At university I learned through process – instruction in the techniques of printmaking. The course was time-consuming and comprehensive, but I knew I needed to broaden my art on a more observational level – and I wanted to paint. The Drawing Year, with its range of courses, often moved me out of my comfort zone, taking us from the landscape of the London parks, into the life drawing room with a man in a Minotaur costume, or out onto the hustle and bustle of Ridley Road market. It was artistically and emotionally life-expanding.
I quickly became aware that you only get out of The Drawing Year what you put in. London is a city full of inspiration, which I was constantly absorbing and always trying to find my focus in. I had already established a subject matter, but I knew that by approaching drawing in different ways I could be challenged. Artists are constantly editing the things they see, but I was being taught how to become more aware even before starting to draw – cultivating a strong desire to discover through drawing what I am seeing. One of the most important lessons I will take from The Drawing Year is to keep observing the world around me with an inquisitive eye.
I remember feeling transported when spending a concentrated time in front of one of my favourite paintings by Mantegna, ‘Agony in The Garden’. Producing a drawing larger than the painting, I was constantly aware of the image as a whole. Getting trapped in miniature worlds was always tempting but it made me really consider how important it was to circulate over the whole image and to get into the edges. The National Gallery does have size limitations on how large you can work but you can be crafty about attaching extra paper. Now I am not afraid to work on large-scale paintings. By having as much information as possible, even a thumbnail sized drawing can help you remember a particular sky or feeling.
I am very grateful for all the opportunities the School has given me, both on The Drawing Year and as an alumna. Over the past few months I have been working towards a group show at Blain Southern Gallery with two other alumni. It was exciting to work towards a deadline and to show in such an incredible space. The Dumfries House residency in Scotland was a great escape from the noise and rush of city life. Fresh air and peace is very important. Knowing that I had to return in two weeks, I found it a great push to get stuck into the landscape and to discover it for myself. Work made on the residency helped fuel paintings back in the studio. The Drawing Year has also given me confidence to enter competitions and I was even lucky enough to win The Sunday Times Watercolour competition in 2014. Next I’m going off to Modinagar near Delhi on the Arts for India Residency, where I’ll be teaching and working as an artist-in-residence. I can’t wait to see what I draw there!