Monday, 13 July 2009

Education is wasted on the young - part 1

[subtitle] ... not helped by useless teachers.

I have been pondering a few posts under this theme and it's taken me weeks to write any of them so here goes with Part 1. You'll just have to keep guessing when the sequel is due out!

All this sudden burst of creativity has taken me back to school and specifically my A level art study and exams. (For those of you not from these shores, A levels are taken at age 18 after two years of study. Each student typically studies 3 A levels, they are a pre-requisite to get into University/College).

Back in the faraway lands of the 1980s (late 1980s, I hasten to add), such a thing as 'coursework' was unheard of in an examiner's vocabulary. Instead, everything hinged on two papers. One a life-drawing exercise over around 3-4 hours and the second a 'painting' which you completed in a set time period, taking no more than 5 or 6 hours I guess (don't ask me to remember that far back - I'm nearly 40 remember!).

So, did our teacher (and I use this label in the loosest definition of the world) spend the two years he had with us nurturing our creativity, love and appreciation of art? Did he take us on a journey of exploration into a treasure trove of artistic materials? Did he encourage us to find and create art from the unlikeliest of sources? Did the school system provide us with interesting media with which to experiment? No, dear readers, he and they did not.

Instead, our two years of 'study' were spent drawing figures over and over and over again. When we weren't sketching our unfortunate models (clothed, I hasten to add - one of them was my mother!), we were given a few tubes of oil paint, a saw and access to the wood store. The whole of at least one lesson would then be spent hacking a piece of wood into a suitable 'canvas' and priming it ready for the hated oil paint. I can't remember the reason why, but we weren't allowed water colours, inks, acrylics or anything that washed off with soap and water. And then came subject matter. "Find something you are good at and stick to it" was the next lesson. OK, I'm not bad at landscapes... Right, says Mr Bailey, there's always an option in the exam paper for a landscape so just paint those. I distinctly remember rebelling at one stage and attempting something a little abstract. Knuckles rapped. Bad student. Back to landscaping for me...
Bit I suppose you're thinking that at least this art teacher would ensure that our life and landscapes were the best they could be. That he would strive to pull from us the very essence of our spirit and push this onto canvas. Nah, course not. He would turn up briefly at the beginning of the 3 hour session then then only magic seen in our artwork was his mysterious disappearance for the rest of the lesson.

And then, the day finally arrives when we receive our exam papers with our choice of subject matter. Naturally, there was no bleedin' landscape option, nor anything that could remotely be interpreted as such. I ended up painting a sink full of washing up and getting a crummy grade. Thank goodness for all that life drawing practice I say or the whole thing could have been a complete disaster!

So, we fast forward a few years (and maybe a few more for luck) and where do we find our heroine now? Well, not at art school and employed neither as artist nor muse. She is however thoroughly enjoying her new-found creative experimentation. Armed with a few more coins these days and access to the cornucopia that is Hobbycraft and the magical store and place of inspiration known simply as 'the Internet', she at last is diving into what she should have done back when her skin was wrinkle-free and T-Pau topped the charts. Yes Mr Bailey, that's right, it's called 'mixed media'... and having fun!

This evening's experimentation (with a huge thank you to every single creative blog, online demo, artists pages, fantasy artwork, books, books, and more books and everyone else who has both inspired and taught me... after I left school!)

Pic 1 was the original magazine advert just after I'd started embellishing it and experimenting a bit with some tissue paper. Pic 2 is final version. Think I'll call her 'golden girl'. Real life colour is a bit more vibrant, but it's late and I haven't got time to mess about fixing it now...

Oh, go on then... maybe just a little tweak with the colours and shadows in photoshop...


  1. ditto..saame experience here in Louisiana .. sad situation.
    I learned more from my Grandmother who copied calendar art!
    wonderful collage.. i am off to read some of your fav blogs, you aee one of my favs

  2. Claire - Little Sis. Ah, yes. I remember that school well. Mr Benson was my Physics teacher who thought that the subjects on the curriculum weren't relevant to everyday life so when he did turn up he taught us how to wire a plug. All very well but when it came to the exam we didn't know a thing. And then there was Mr Hall who decided it was more educational in our German lesson to make us sit and watch 'Village of The Damned'. Looking back, I should have complained!


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