For the past 3 years I have been lucky enough to be invited to draw speakers at the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival. The history festival, or CVHF is perhaps the only literary festival in Britain to be focused purely on history which is surprising given the number and popularity of literary festivals now. It is well run and has a veritable army of volunteers who keep the show on the road come what may. Last year the skies opened and the festival deeply resembled a night on the Somme with speakers and punters all wearing Wellington boots and joking together in a fashion that reminded one of the spirit of the Blitz. This year it is at a different sight, still in the Chalke Valley but possibly less likely to flood. The setting is stunning.
Most of the speakers have a book to sell so they have a bit of incentive to come as there is a Waterstone’s tent where they do a book signing and flog a few copies of their book. At any given moment there are generally three talks going on and it is a real job to choose what to see, they all look so interesting. Some I am told to do but others are free choice. As my history teacher at school was exceptionally bad at his job I have a lot of ground to make up but this helps me no end. For one thing, they are some of the most important historians of our time and many are truly great speakers who really give you a thirst to know more. I find the whole thing very inspiring.
Last night I went to see Chris Patten talking about his career and David Cannadine talking about Margaret Thatcher. The Chris Pattern drawing was really challenging as he walked to and fro in a continuous circle without pause. I had positioned myself to draw him at the lectern but for most of the talk he was hidden by it as he moved across the stage and back. Somehow I knocked something out that I am told looks like him. Not wearing glasses helped as I could get the general features without worrying too much about detail.
David Cannadine stayed more or less put while speaking so I managed to something a bit more detailed. The speakers talk for about 45 minuted followed by about 15 minutes of questions.
The festival runs from the 26th June to 2nd July. Here’s link to the programme. If you would like to come
I have let my blog fall fallow this last year and although I have regularly uploaded paintings and drawings to my Instagram feed at willpaint, there are a number of things I want to get out there that are more suited to a blog and so I will attempt to put that right starting now.
I have been painting in various places around the world this year and it is something I love to do. Travel and painting seem to be made for each other (the problems encountered getting solvents in unfamiliar country’s aside). I intend to write a post soon on my various set-ups and my travel kit both bought and home made, but for now I want to write about something I am so excited about;
October in Kenya.
This October I shall rearrange my teaching days at The Royal Drawing School to fit in a week of teaching at Kilifi, a beautiful spot on the coast of Kenya.
From Saturday 8th to Sunday 16th October you are invited to Mdoroni on the Kenya coast to enjoy a week of painting in one of the most beautiful places in Kenya.
The idea is for accomplished and not so accomplished artists to paint without pressure under my guidance – We might paint interiors, exteriors, markets, landscapes, views, Arab ruins, boats, beach and trees. We will enjoy delicious healthy cooking, culture and the beauty of Kilifi Creek . This is a painting trip and holiday which can be enjoyed by artists and non-painting partners alike.
A beautiful tranquil fully staffed villa on the beach at the mouth of Kilifi Creek with views 360 degree views of the Indian Ocean. Furnished with Swahili antiques and surrounded by rambling coral gardens, bougainvillea and baobab trees.
If you are not signed up for Instagram I can highly recommend it. It’s a great place for following Artists who interest you, or anyone else for that matter and as its basically just a picture per post it really is suited to art works.
If you prefer not to install the Instagram app my feed can be viewed here
Just a quick mention that I will be taking part in Pintar Rapido, London this year. It takes place over two days; on Saturday 11th July we go out and paint our pictures and on Sunday they are put up for sale in an exhibition at Chelsea Town Hall in the Kings Road. The show opens at 12pm and closes at 5.30.
There are going to be a lot of artists painting views of London, up to about 500 and I think it will be great fun. It is actually a competition but I haven’t as much experience in one day painting as many of my fellow painters so will be painting one of the smaller pictures there in the hope of finishing in time to hand in my canvas before the end of the day.
If you are artist and you see this in time, why not join me on the Saturday?
For nearly 15 years now, I have been teaching drawing and painting at the Princes Drawing School – or, as it should now be called, the Royal Drawing School, since the Queen recently awarded the school Royal status.
This didn’t get all that much coverage, but that may be a good thing given British press’s have a habit of finding fault rather that looking for the good. They do after all have to make money and it seems that the public have a taste for bad news with salacious details. Prince Charles receives a great deal of unfair criticism from the British papers but he has in fact created more jobs for young people in this country than anyone else. His critics achievements are often fairly questionable..
The Royal Academy was given royal status in 1768, followed by The Royal College of Music, The Royal College of Art, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and the last arts establishment to be granted Royal status was The Royal Ballet and that was over 50 years ago so we are in the most prestigious company.
The Prince’s Drawing School was founded by Prince Charles and Catherine Goodman in 2000 in response to the decline of the teaching of drawing in British art schools.
The Prince is a great boss and he hasn’t micromanaged the school, he just provided the impetus and support.
When I was teaching Art in a secondary school some years ago I went on an A Level exam marking course. We, that is, a few hundred Art teachers, met in a large hall, and the atmosphere was charged. Partly because putting an empirical value on a students body of work is a contentious issue but mainly it was the battling of egos. To paraphrase “Little Britain”, everyone thought that they were the only artist in the village,
Many teachers of art feel that art should be done their way and take it personally if anyone wants to do something else. There are a number of small Independent art schools around the world, – some have been started recently, others have been about in one guise or another for some time – and students of these schools seem to produce work very similar in style to that of their fellow students. I have to say that the Drawing school does not seem to have a house style. There are over 75 teaching members of faculty and probably as many styles of work. I think that the Director of the school, Catherine Goodman is largely responsible for this, she has been great at picking and orchestrating the large team of tutors to give a dynamic yet balanced approach.
One statement that I read of a small teaching atelier opined that art took a wrong turn a little before 1900 and that they would like to go back to the golden age before that wrong turn. I personally don’t think it is viable to dismiss all that has been created since the turn of the 19th century and find that idea somewhat boring. I really enjoy the work of many 20th century artists, particularly those who have worked outside the mainstream, for instance Edward Burra whom it would be hard to better for imaginative quality and insight..
It is in the philosophy of Drawing School to see drawing as a part of contemporary art as opposed to in opposition to it. We are all adding stuff to the big pond that is art today.
Recently, I was asked to give a talk about the Drawing School to the Tetbury Art Society. I was to do this in conjunction with Michelle Cioccoloni who has been a student at the Drawing School. The talk would be at Highgrove, Prince Charles’ home in Wiltshire, and I was to talk about my work and my experience of being a teacher at the drawing school while Michelle would talk about her own work and the school from a students perspective.
The drawing school have a power point slide show they use for talks but as I was talking about myself at the drawing school I needed to redo the slides with examples of my own work (enough of do this me talking about myself, what do you think of me?)
Trying to make sense of the events in your life is not just an indulgence, it is essential step in moving forward and I found the act of remembering how I had got to where I am now caused me to think about a lot of things I wouldn’t otherwise be thinking about.
I ran through a series of images of my paintings showing examples from the last 35 years and used them to describe my career and some of my thoughts on the importance of drawing.
I was greatly saddened to hear that the my old art School; The Slade had given up the use of models to teach drawing and that drawing from life was not really taking place there any more. It had had a grand reputation in the past and a tradition of drawing that was famed world wide. In the last 30 years they have abandoned all that but apart from business management I don’t see what they have to teach.
Fees at British Universities get higher every year and of course you wonder what the students are paying for. It doesn’t take much to start up a private art school and give better value for money. You don’t get a degree but you can learn something. Drawing is something tangible you can teach. It is also of value. Drawing is the way we make sense of the world when we first try to understand. May people stop drawing but it would be of value to anyone and you would never be without something to do. With a pencil and paper you can feel that you are communing with the world about you and resolve many a problem of form and design. An art student who can draw can always do a portrait, design a card or a logo, draw a house or illustrate a text or book, paint a mural. Most of these things are not that well paid but they are practical use. Being visually literate is of course useful in industry and enhances our lives. In the world of conceptual art; many are called but very few are chosen. Those not chosen are not really suited to as much. They may become art teachers in schools but of course would not be capable of teaching anyone to draw or even look. How depressing is that? A whole generation of art teachers would teach the next generation that drawing is unimportant, mainly because they wouldn’t have it in them to demonstrate otherwise.
Of course one of the major points of the drawing school is to teach the next generation. So to Michelle. I hadn’t met Michelle before the talk but we had plenty of interests in common, one of which was the use of silver-point and she had brought some examples of her drawings to the talk. Here is a link to her site
She spoke very well on the subject of coming to the drawing school to learn to draw She had previously studied for a degree at Chelsea School of Art and told us all how much more she had actually learnt on the drawing year compared tor her years of study at art school up to that point. As you can see Michelle draws beautifully and she is one of an ever growing number of good draftsmen who are emerging from the Drawing School and who will carry the torch for drawing into the future. They have great deal of ability and an infectious enthusiasm for what they are doing.
The problem is they may want teaching jobs at the drawing school and I’m not ready to leave just yet!
Michelle and I had a very enjoyable day hosted by the Chairman of the Tetbury Arts Society, Gill Ashley and her husband Roger. Photos are not allowed at Highgrove but this is a shot of Michelle and me after lunch at the nearby Hare and Hounds Hotel
I don’t drink alcohol, the red flush in my face is a bit of left over bronzing from our recent trip to Barbados. More of which anon.