Thursday, 25 March 2010

Do we really need all this technology?

My scanner has been causing me huge frustration today! The sea in this collage is actually 'sea-green' but after scanning, it was definitely purple! No amount of Photoshop 'adjustments' came even close to the original so I've produced two versions, taking the opportunity to make a few collage 'adjustments' between the first and the second attempt. (Sometimes it seems to be easier to see what is needed once the image is on the screen!)

At moments like these, I envy the artists and designers of earlier times who didn't have to get involved in technological issues. Of course computer technology gives us all sorts of wonderful opportunities that they lacked but it certainly brings its fair share of 'ARRRGGGHHH!' moments and challenges to the little grey cells!

There seems to have been something of a revolution in Children's Book Illustration about 50/60 years ago, with illustrators like Eric Carle, Ezra Jack Keats, Quentin Blake, Maurice Sendak and Dick Bruna producing work that was quite unlike anything that had gone before. John Burningham was a contemorary of these illustrators and I was fortunate to receive his autobiography as a Christmas present this year. It is a treasure trove of his illustrations and information about what it was like to be a young illustrator in the 1950s and '60s. I was fascinated to notice that he had used collage figures against a background photograph just at the time when I was wondering whether something similar would be the answer to my difficulties with my 'frog' poem illustrations.

But the thing that made me really sit up and take notice was reading that John Burningham left school at 16, having failed his Art exam!

I ended my previous post at the point where I took Art 'O' Level and for the first time ever, experienced a blow to my confidence when I discovered that my 'Art' mark was the second lowest of all my 'O' Level marks. I didn't mention that a few tedious lessons, compared with the otherwise idyllic hours spent in the 'Art School', had consisted of drawing tins of Vim, balls of string and wilting pieces of Mock Orange with an HB pencil - not far off torture to my way of thinking!

After that I painted the odd wishy-washy watercolour landscape from time to time, but it was about 10 years before I considered going to an Art Class again, having occupied my time pretty fully with obtaining a degree in Modern Languages, teaching in primary schools and raising my family. When I finally got around to joining a local Art evening class, I could hardly believe what we were asked to do! A collection of plastic flower pots and fridge containers was set up on a desk in the middle of a primary school classroom, complete with fluorescent lighting. I took out some charcoal and did a quick sketch, which is all I assumed was required of us, only to be instructed to begin again - with an HB pencil!!!

At that point, I nearly gave up altogether but after a chat with the teacher, we agreed that I would sit in a corner and paint from my photos of the bay where Dylan Thomas had his 'writing hut'. And that I could ask if I needed help but otherwise I would just be left to get on with it. I can't honestly say that I learnt a thing from that teacher, though maybe the rest of the class did. But at least it ensured that I took time off from the domestic and work chores one evening a week so it wasn't all bad!

But I am fairly firmly convinced that 'artistic ability' has more to do with confidence than with talent and that we are all born with the ability to make art; that it's more a case of 'unlearning' than 'learning' when it comes to art lessons. More on that another day....

Here is my second scanning attempt - not sure whether it's any better really but at least the trees are more or less the same colour as the original.


Country Mouse Studio said...

On my computer there is almost no difference in the two pictures.
I agree that the difference between someone who is an artist, musician or whatever often is simply the confidence and the drive.
Many people I know learned how to play a musical instrument but didn't love it enough to continue or do anything with it.
I too was not a natural artist and struggled with every picture. I gave it up so many times but whenever I got back into it I felt like I'd found the missing piece.
My experience with art in schools is the same, I am horrified when a teacher tells a student that their sky has to be blue or it doesn't look like that.

JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

Carole, you've just reminded me that at one of my solo exhibitions of my pastel paintings, someone (an art teacher, I suspect!) 'strongly suggested' to me how I should have done the sky in one of my paintings!

Luckily, by that time I was sufficiently confident to find it hilarious!

Ulla Hennig said...

It is really striking how similar experiences with art in schools are across different countries. I liked to draw when I was a kid, but art in school taught me that I was hopeless. It took me more than 35 years to regain my confidence. In the 80s I went to an art class and did some pastel paintings / drawings and was very surprised about the positive reaction.