Day Five began with a trip to the Sargeant Gallery for a private viewing of their life drawing collection. Pat and I went to the studio first [there was a reason but I can't remember it now - oh.. to draw Jolene i think] and walked up to the Gallery with Marianne, Dean and Sarah. Phoebe was a hungover horizontal figure on the grassy slope outside the gallery. Dean wrangled her, then we all went inside to view the sampling of life drawing in the Gallery's collection. Quite nice of them to do that for us, and to open especially so we could see the works.
There were two dozen works or so to look at - mostly pencil/chalk work. I wish I'd written down the artists - about a third of the work was by Edith Collier. There was one by Philip Clairmont, one by Claudia Pond-Elly [not sure I have that right], Jeffrey Harris meh.. i can't remember the rest. We milled around in a small area they'd propped the works up against the wall for us to view. The curator/galleryguy talked about each in turn, Marianne was on her knees examining the works closely seeing how each artist showed their observation and artistic skills. It was impossible to have a clear view of all the works all the time. We shuffled around, listening, and would have plenty of time [we had a good 45 minutes up there] to see the works individually. I was being annoyed by Mrs Bates' overly stuffed pink backpack smooshing into my shoulder each time she turned to see the next artwork. Why she hadn't put it down somewhere, anywhere, is beyond me. We were the only ones in the Gallery.
We were halfway round the artworks when the curator/galleryguy said something about a work by Edith Collier suggesting we look at somethingorother when Mrs Bates' voice behind me said, "Some of us can't see." She'd only said it loud enough for me to hear it. I didn't move, and pretended I hadn't heard. She repeated "Some of us can't see." Now - had Mrs Bates said "excuse me Michelle, I can't see." or "you make a better door than a window" I might have moved. But instead, her repeating "some of us can't see" only made me s p r e a d myself wider. I pushed my shoulders back and winged my arms and willed myself to be more like a wall than a door. And when she moved - I moved. I got bored relatively quickly with this game but i was *in her way* until the novelty wore off. Eventually, I just wanted to go back to the first drawings and look at them closely, which is what i did.
I wasn't really listening to what was going on until voices got a little bit louder than they had been when I looked up from looking at the red chalk sketch of a woman who looked strikingly like my sister-in-law to hear Mrs Bates saying "but how do they even get *in* here?" Marianne was suggesting Mrs B talk to the curator because she *liked* Clairmont's work, found it interesting and energetic. Mrs Bates had the last word saying, of Clairmont/Pond-Elly/Jeffrey Harris "it's just a jumbled up mess, I can't make head or tail of it. How do pictures like that even *get in here*."
After that, wandered back up to the studio to start working from the model for the rest of the morning. We had a new model named Mark. He was younger and fitter than the other male models we had - unfortunately, because of a skin disease he also had lost a chunk of muscle from his chest which made him a bit wonky to draw. He was a newbie too - second time modelling and it showed. He couldn't keep still, and he couldn't think of many poses. He seemed really nervous. He also dressed at each break and was slow to get back to naked again. Poor bugger - it looks easy but it's not. We didn't do as much gesture work with him, rather Marianne had him in longer poses but he had trouble keeping them - though I 'm sure he thought he was still - he wasn't. Saying "oh, but the model moved" is akin to "the dog ate my homework". It just doesn't hold that much water when you've basically got_it_wrong.
For lunch, Pat and I decided to go back to the flat and have tomato sandwiches and a cup of tea. I was all about comfort food in Wanganui. Driving down Campbell Street towards our flat we noticed quite a number of policemen with clipboards and figured they were doing a house-to-house. The Thursday before we arrived in Wednesday, a young woman was murdered in Wanganui and her body found on the edge of the River, about 4 blocks away from the student accommodation we were staying in. As we pulled up to our flat a police officer was knocking on our door. It was a stinking hot day and he looked tired. He came into the shade of the kitchen and while we made lunch and answered his questions, he took our statements and had us sign them. It took a surprisingly long time, and by the time he left it was time to get back to the studio. I never thought I'd hear the words "where were you on the night of..." in any seriousness.
After lunch we had another new model: Whitu. She was older and heavier than Anna [a bag of rice is heavier than Anna] which was nice. Whitu has the most beautiful legs - really muscled and her calves had the longest curves. She, too, was new to modelling but she quickly seemed to feel more at ease and had a lot of good poses. It must be weird to be the only naked person in a room full of clothed people. Not *so* bad when you're on a stagelike structure - you can feel "apart" I guess. Jeanette, one of the girls in the class, had done some nude modelling at art school. She said it was quite a strange sensation and for her, at least; she always felt invisible after a session. She said it was almost as if everyone was looking at her until she was all used up and gone. But we don't stay at our easels all the time so the safeness of the stage is lost. A couple of times we "gathered around" to look at stuff in a book or listen to Marianne or whatever, and Whitu was still there standing next to Joleen, for instance, while Marianne pointed to skeleton bones and Whitu skin. She looked surprisingly comfortable considering how close we got.
Whitu was very good, and very still. We used her for a 40 minute (2x20 min) pose which I still didn't manage to finish even with all that extra time.
Getting home to find a busy kitchen and lots of chatter about the day's drawing. Someone asked me how I found the models that day. I said I was pleased to have been able to draw Whitu, especially her legs and feet - she had great legs and feet. To which Mrs Bates agreed saying "Now I understand why Gauguin wanted to draw those people."
Pat and I left to see the slide presentation up at the Museum - the last in the series. Our own tutor, Marianne Muggeridge and her art school friend Michael Shepherd were showing their work. Although Marianne had said we needn't come in fact, had suggested we not attend her presentation, we all showed up and then some. It was quite the full house.
A couple of times during the week, Marianne had disappeared to the museum to prepare for her presentation. We'd seen some of her work as photographs and I, for one, was looking forward to hearing her stories behind the works and her life as a full time artist. When we arrived, Marianne was on her knees, facing her seat, picking slides up and looking at them in the light then slotting them into the wheel of the viewer. It seems that 5 minutes before we arrived she managed to drop the entire set of slides on the floor and was trying to get them all back into the wheel. She apologised and all her organised themes and order were gone - some were even back-to-front. That kind of stuff *always* happens, doesn't it?
But it was great. She is great. Her work is luscious and luminous and well drawn and her use of colour is wonderful. Like Cappy Thompson the night before, Marianne's work has her life running through it. Her subjects are her family, her home in Taranaki, her studio in Wellington. She, too, takes commissions and works on site, from life - so she gets to know her subject. Her stories were wonderful and easily told. If she was nervous it didn't show and Michael Shepherd said she was a hard act to follow because of the life in her work.
But he did just fine - even if he started his presentation declaring he wasn't an artist at all. By the end of his presentation every single one of us begged to differ. He talked about his life growing up, at art school, discovering a direction in art combining his passion for New Zealand's history. He was so apologetic all the time but his work - while being successful in later years and in some major collections in the country, was often not very successful at all to begin with and for a long time. Marianne had introduced us to Michael the day before [I lost track of this memory]. We [life drawing class and oil painting class] had all gathered in the UCOL exhibition room where he met with Marianne to discuss why two of her paintings were displaying cracks in the paint after only a year or two. He had studied art conservation at University as well as having a passion for mixing his own paint.
Paint is pigment in medium. Some pigment comes from the dirt and clay, some from minerals, some from the urine of cows feed soley on mango leaves - all sorts of places. Each colour has different properties and one of the properties that vary is the drying time of that colour. There is a strong connection between science and art. Knowing where your pigments come from and how they act is part of knowing your tools. Marianne said she didn't know much about the technical side of oil painting and tended to use what she could lay her hands on with little thought other than if it worked or not. Her choice of ground [surface on the canvas she painted on], frame [the canvas is stretched and fastened to] and colour application all conspired against her in the paintings she had as examples resulting in cracks in the model's crack! It was a very interesting, if short 30 minute peep into oil painting and preparation. I hadn't really thought about it before not being an oil painter - which colours are light-fast and/or opaque etc in watercolour has been drummed into my brain over the years and it was a bit of an "ahhh" moment when I realised oils had the same kinds of restrictions.
Again, a wonderful evening and two great presentations. The slide shows really were a real treat.
Getting home and after tea and tomatoes on toast, I disappeared up to my bedroom to phone a friend. Despite my increased whinging and complaining, I felt Pat was becoming quite desensitised to me and I needed someone new to whinge to. I felt like I was a million miles away from the "real world" in Wanganui. Taken out of time and idling in a side street from my life. It was so very strange to be so far away from computers and phones, television and radio, family and friends. Oh, of course, I had found the internet *cafe* a day or two before but it wasn't the same as blogging from my nest and the time went too quickly. I mostly only had time to put notes to my PXT on Flickr as their broadband was slower than dialup sometimes. And you couldn't open more than one browser at a time. And pop-up windows had been disabled. Goddamn gamers who have no concept of what *other* people might want to use a computer for. I felt so much better after my phonecall and slept relatively well only waking once when again, my legs were trying to escape at 4am.