You know what I did this summer - Part One

Wanganui Summer School of the Arts rocks!

Cept my course, it was *really* hard work. But at least it was exhausting. And I slept badly. And my phone went kaput for a few days. And I was without internet access. And I had to give a statement in a murder inquiry. heh. I have taken complaining to a whole new level. I think they're going to offer it at Summer School 2006 (!!)

[this post comes with a Government Length Warning - in fact.. it will dribble out in installments over the next few days because, by jimminey, there's a lot to say]

I drove to Rotorua on Friday 7th January arriving 6 hours later than planned due to last minute [always the way] changes in the project I was working on. My brother, who was here for a week from Melbourne, had moved his adoring entourage to Rotorua from New Plymouth so I could catch up with him. Because of my lateness in arriving and because we are both nightowls, he and I stayed up late drinking and talking [excellent plan for a night-before a long trip] and catching up on stuff and it was good. Good grief that man can drink! I managed to get my beer 'n' muscat [shudders at the very thought of ever drinking that crap again] soaked liver to bed about 4am.

Lake Taupo looking North

By lunchtime the next day, I was ready to leave for Wanganui. My Aunty Pat and I were all packed up and ready for our road trip [in all honesty, the packing took like 5 minutes - the "me waking up" took all morning] and we set off on our 5 hour drive across country. It was a nice drive. We talked and talked, stopping in Turangi for a late lunch and arrived at the Summer School about 5:30pm.

some rail bridge

This is where we met Theresa Goodin, the organiser for the Summer School. She directed us to our accommodation and we met some of our flat mates - yes, it was my fault - I forgot to turn my freak-magnet off before I left Rotorua. Mother and son combination that seemed really odd to start with, and that initial first impression was confirmed as the days went on. He turned out to be not-so-bad in the end he just "tried" too hard as some of us tend to do. But she, she was just one of *those* people - not very bright but meddling, and controling, and know-it-all and narrow-minded. There's always one and she was it. Probably the most annoying thing about her was that she was actually a pretty decent life-drawer which just made my ability to tolerate her even more difficult - ok, I didn't even try. [I'm going to call her Mrs Bates from here-on-in - named so by a friend of mine after the mother in Pyscho. That makes her son Norman, okay? right? okay]

The student flats accommodated 6 people on 3 levels. The rooms were compact and could've done with a good scrub, but for $10/night I was the only one complaining. [I mean.. I wiped the dining table down with my new lime-green cloth and it turned BROWN!] So we gave the kitchen and eating areas a bit of a scrub and bought food from the local supermarket and made dinner and all that jazz. Pat and I went for a walk after dinner, admiring the lovely old homes of Wanganui. I'm a bit of a bungalow fan and there were lots to oo and ah at - not that they'd been renovated as such but they were originals on large flat sections and so many had just the right feng shui. We ended up walking for a couple of hours, both of us not really wanting to go back to the flat for any Bates smalltalk.

My first encounter with Mrs Bates was as I brushed my teeth in the shared bathroom before retiring to bed. She came into the bathroom and filled the second washbasin. I wasn't paying attention until she said to me "One must keep ahead of one's smalls." and there she was scrubbing her "larges" in the murky water.

I didn't sleep much that night - and for any of the nights I was there actually, but that first night was the worst. Combination of fluctuating temperatures on the top floor, over stimulation of my frustration glands [as the week went on] and an extremely hard bed. It was very quiet though. Coming from Auckland I thought Wanganui positively deserted of people and void of traffic sounds after 10pm [although Mrs B. said she couldn't sleep for the traffic noise so go figure]

and yes, I was like this the entire week with the complaining. I had to step-up my whinging by Wednesday because Pat was becoming desensitised to it and had stopped listening.

So. First day - Sunday 9th January begins with a Powhiri [traditional Maori welcome]. It was very nice and I have to admit to a bit of a giggle when the Kamatua looked right at the highly groomed, equisitely thin pair of older Remuera-like female students to his left and commented on how great it was to see many "older" people were at the Summer School this year. The weather was overcast, but dry. Although UCOL HQ was only a block away from where we were staying, the Fine Arts school was a bit further away, so we drove down there for class commencement after the welcoming to meet our tutor and other classmates.

UCOL Life Drawing studio

The tutor taking our life drawing class was Marianne Muggeridge. She seemed to have a no-nonsense attitude but in a gentle way. She didn't seem to have favourites in the class, and she encouraged us all and directed us well. She was punctual and expected us to work hard.

The facilities were really good. Purpose fitted warehouse [lots of great old buildings in Wanganui] with huge white walled spaces for different disciplines - the painting area had large "booth" type areas rather than open-plan, whereas our space was open space with easels set up in a circle around a central raised table for the models.

We started off as you normally would in such a situation - each of us introducing ourselves and how we got there etc. 15 of us in all and, as it turned out, not much of a difference in the best and the worst - actually i can't even say that, we were all different but pretty evenly matched, skillwise. There were only 2 men in the class - Norman Bates, the 30something son of Mrs Bates and exIT guy with red-socks and sandals. The another, a 30something tattooist named Dean, about to start a 4 year Fine Arts degree at the school. The rest were women - the youngest being Phoebe [I want to be Phoebe when i grow up] at 17 and the oldest being - well, that's debateable but 60something I might guess, and there were a couple of those.

life drawing participants

We started by being introduced to our skeleton Joleen - a real skeleton (real bones as opposed to cast plastic) and spent the rest of the morning drawing her - I really hate skinny models but at least Joleen was still. Our first afternoon saw us drawing Alan. We had him most often during the week. He seemed to be in his 60s but it was hard to tell - as Jeanette kept saying "he's in good nick!" and so he was with very expressive poses. Most of our models [except one] seemed very experienced and comfortable with being naked in a room full of clothed people staring intently at them.

joleen drawing

joleen drawing

I slipped back into drawing from life easily that afternoon. It's a bit like riding a bike in that you don't lose what you've learned in the past - I felt a bit rusty but that soon passed and the hand-eye co-ordination seemed to slot back into place at the last time I drew life models and my work reflected the level I'd attained to that point. This was not to last - in my opinion my work got worse and worse throughout the week - but my eyes got better and better. I think those things go hand-in-hand [or hand-and-eye] the better I got at seeing the more mistakes I saw.

charcoal sketch

Day One ended at 4pm and we went back to our flat to eat and meet the rest of our flatmates.

Jill had joined our little house. She was older and from Palmerston North. She said she painted abstract mostly, and belonged to a few groups and often had several projects on the go. She seemed fairly placid, and was really I guess, but there was and is a glint of wickedness to Jill. An attractive mixture of innocence and evil which went over quite well during the week. Joining me on the top floor and Pat, Norman, Mrs Bates and Jill in the house, was Leedom. She was a 20something family friend of our tutor, Marianne. Leedom was bubbly and had a voice that filled the room. She had introduced herself saying she had dropped out of law school after a year to write a novel and had stopped starting her novel to explore painting. She was cheery and ate lots of bananas. She also had a really good time on the course, she even danced between sessions. [hephalumpy but fun all the same]

It seemed that all the other flats had mixtures of courses - Phoebe, for instance, was next door in a flat full of writers and glassmakers. [and the lovely long-legged Alex but that's another story] Our flat was all life-drawers. So, I had the pleasure *cough* of seeing them in the mornings, all day AND in the evenings. Which would have been okay if Mrs Bates wasn't one of them. But she was, and so I had someone to fix my grump on.

charcoal sketch

charcoal sketch