Drawing at the Allotment

Drawing at the Allotment

You can read this first ... if you watch the video, first though, you know I asked a Painting Professor, "Why do you paint?" and he chirped back rather flippantly, "Why does a bird sing?" ... then he flew off but not before handing me a dried up old paintbrush he weilds like a wand and which I caught mid-air while wondering what just happened, here ... and if he wants it back.

What a perfect response. That's Richard Gorman, and it turned out he was not my Painting teacher though I still think of him as such.

Let me explain.

Day 1 of 4th-year Painting Class, Ottawa University: Richard takes center-stage and announces a guest lecturer will join us after break. We will be taught how to fix our work. I am secretly delighted. I crave a good critique ... know I need all the help I can get. 

The model takes the stand, drops his robe and begins posing. The fellow to the right of me starts drawing. I look around. I've signed up for a painting class and am now unsure I’m in the right room despite having been reassured I am. The older guy with a bushy brown beard to my left grabs sheets of newsprint from the side table and passes a few sheets to me, motioning to the chalkboard ledge where there were a few broken sticks of powdery white covered black conte ... he offers the same courtesy to others. I secure my newsprint to a drawing board with T- pins pilfered from the nearby cork board and start to draw. Others fumble about. The big burly bearded guy attacks his paper. And I do mean attacks it. He’s one, stand waaaaay back, fierce ball of fire.

It turns out he’s also’ the James Boyd’ our actual Painting Prof.

Day 1, and I am drawing in painting class. I have no idea who he is … nor that he is.

Richard and James, are both responsible for setting the tone for the year – looking back, I think of it as ‘just one big  60’s happening’ and still don’t actually know if I was in the right class or not. Somehow things work out.

[See this post for the year I purposefully stay in the wrong class - for a month - without saying anything to anyone - then I get caught. I'll write it soon - promise (until then leave your e-mail below or e-mail me at brenda@oneseedwonders.com and I will let you know when I do).]

Back to Day1.

Preface: Practically everyone smokes. Bent and wobbly tinfoil ashtrays are scattered throughout the studio – all wiggly, on boxes where we also later balance paint trays, tins of turps (and later, yet, use odorless so the fumes are less noticeable) and bottles of linseed oil. None of this is happening in our first class, but it speaks to an era where anything goes and how things went, then - and in the end, with these two, we got points for throwing paint instead of using a brush and we all got C's at the end of the year - unless, of course, we wanted a better (or worse) grade – we just had to attend and debate; ie, maybe where we were headed next required higher-ranking for acceptance. I was pleased we could approach them, and I did - but not for a grade change. I needed to know what a portfolio was.

Little did I know then portfolio development would become my life's work.

Back to Day 1: At break, the nude model approaches me and asks for a light. It feels a little weird smoking & striking up a conversation with him but not for reasons you might think. I’m embarrassed he might see my drawing ... it’s not up to 4th year scratch. I've been accepted into 4th year before taking any prerequisite courses based on my portfolio. I have to fulfill requirements eventually, of course, but sequencing doesn’t seem to matter.

I do my best to divert the models attention away from my easel and point to a commotion going on at the other side of the room. It’s Richard. "What's he doing?", I ask, pointing towards our man gone wild and wielding an aerosol can, running about, spritzing puffs of spray, here, there ... into the air ... and everywhere  … around the room he flies and as he gets closer, thankfully he stops at Big Beard, who holds out his drawing pad, he cradles in his arms … and rocks it gently to and fro beneath the mist – they are in sync and the energy increases between them until the baby’s almost thrown out with the bathwater ... then it stops.

We go back to work.

I am glad of the distraction though. Richard looks at my drawing and says, "Oh do DO more." Not what I expect, of course. The model nods, stubs his cigarette out in the tin ashtray I’m left holding and takes off. When I look at Richard's etchings now, I get what he said ... you will too. Click here and scroll down to his two prints. So dark and full of heavy lines, tight as a ball of yarn to the point where they almost become solid silhouettes.

I laugh to myself. He said, 'do-Do.'

The model coughs. He begins his pose and back to work we all go. And I spend the rest of the class diligently overworking my fragile paper ... there are no erasers and I know enough not to ask.

I feel more and more deflated as it became clear the guest lecturer isn’t going to show. 

The bearded big guy comes up from behind and looks at my drawing. I mumble my displeasure at what we see. He said I’m wrong.

“I’m always wrong”, I laugh. Aren't we supposed to get our drawings fixed, I asked.

"Richard...", he calls. “Get over here, mate, and fix-a-tive this drawing, man!’


Well hairspray then. Same thing.

Ahhhhh - I say. Not understanding what we’re talking about nor realizing who either of them are nor that they'll be combining their classes all year.

“OK - everyone - let's pack it up. We're out of here.”

NOTE: The names have not been changed to protect the innocent but the story has been.


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