Friday, 14 June 2013

SBA Course 9 Seminar Day

The much anticipated day of the seminar arrived and I woke up in a hotel in London with a painful scratch down the middle of my chin, acquired sometime in the night. My family assured me that they hadn’t noticed, whilst talking to my chin. Lovely stuff, at least I could stop worrying about my hair going frizzy in the damp heat of an unexpectedly glorious day, no-one was going to notice.

I had a little time to spare before the seminar, so took the family into the exhibition to have a look around and get photographed with my pencil drawings. The student section is amazing to see, and easily holds it’s own with the main exhibition. It was lovely to see the work of people I have been in touch with who have finished the course.

All too soon it was time to wave off the family to their own adventure and make my way up to the second floor where we were gathering for the seminar.

There were several lecture tours of the exhibition, on differing subjects, to sign up for, and I signed up for most of them. Luckily, I left a few sessions free, the tours were running back to back and it all became a little frantic at one point with students rushing up three flights of stairs and through corridors, only to rush straight back down to the basement again for the next lecture. And getting very hot and bothered in the process.

I did find time to watch my tutor for the last three assignments, Sandrine Maugy, showing how to drop colour onto wet paper and just let it flow. Possibly one of the most difficult things to do in watercolour, as the need to ‘direct it’ can be overwhelming. However watching and talking to Sandrine about this technique made me realise I have been too busy trying to ‘make’ the colour do what I want when I should be sitting back and letting it happen. No wonder I’ve had trouble reserving my highlights.

I particularly needed to talk to the tutors about my sketchbook - ‘am I doing it right?’ as I have never really kept a sketchbook of my workings for paintings, I’ve always been a spontaneous, let it happen kind of gal, rather than planning everything to the last detail. But I am seeing the value of trying out several compositions and colour schemes, and doing colour tests before starting. I’m even beginning to put ideas onto paper that have nothing to do with what I’m working on, for future reference. Now that’s progress.

I also needed to discuss with my current tutor the problems I’m anticipating about working in the field. In this part of Wales, it’s more likely to be ‘working in the bog and marsh’ especially if this summer is anything like last year, which it’s likely to be as I’m on this course. It’s just my kind of luck that we bought a nice big tent a few years ago so we could have some cheap holidays with the dogs. A month later it started raining and we had the worst floods this country has seen for centuries! We were booked to camp in the Cotswolds and all the surrounding area was under water for weeks. We managed three days and still packed up in the rain!

Anyway, I wanted to discuss what my options might be if the weather does what it has done for the last five or six summers and it looked like bog snorkelling was my best bet. I now have a few options I hadn’t thought of and none of them include bog snorkelling.

Unfortunately, during the first lecture tour, my daughter tried to ring me, and my phone wasn’t switched off as I had thought. It’s a very loud ringtone as often I’m in a musical setting which can be quite noisy and sounded even louder in the hush of the echoing, exhibition hall. Being a new phone I couldn’t switch it off at first and, understandably, the tutor looked very annoyed. As I struggled to find the off switch people started to giggle, until most were roaring with laughter as I panicked and dropped the thing, then retrieved it whilst apologising profusely. Finally, I managed to switch it off, and the lecture continued. Later, whilst discussing my sketchbook with Kay Rees Davies, the phone went off again. I was mortified, and yet again couldn’t turn it off quickly, until everyone was laughing. I did manage to kill it completely this time though. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be forgotten, but what a way to be remembered, the woman with a red stripe down her chin, with frizzy hair and a mobile phone that kept going off! Not at all the impression I’d intended making.


  1. I imagine that everyone sympathized with the embarrassment of the ringing phone--it has happened to most of us! Wishing you the best as you continue on in the course. Bog snorkeling might be an interesting feature for your field study...?

  2. Oh Polly, I love the picture you paint!!!
    I can just imagine how you felt.
    I love the wet on wet approach - nothing better than seeing the watercolour do its magic without too much interference from us ... but then again I need to work more on the dry brushwork.
    Working in the field is a tough one - the workload is huge - lots and lots of sketches and notes. We had to do it in the searing heat of summer when everything was burnt and dry - but there were still options and I am sure you will find something in your boggy marshland :)
    Sonja Beer (White) did one of the most beautiful working in the field artworks I have seen - if you get a chance to view it on FB - and Sonja is from Wales.
    Best of luck - hope you will share the results with us :)

  3. Just found your blog Polly. Great post, we have all been there. Working in the field is perhaps the hardest one as your sketchbook pages play such an important part and getting the habitat right all adds to it. Sounds like you will have a good one to do though and as Vicki says, do try to see Sonia's piece on FB. Good luck and I look forward to hearing about it.