I have been rude

To a young poet. Not about her work, but about her reported experience of University where she conducted study of all things cultural. She said: most of it went over my head. I said: education is wasted on youth.

Oh dear. But it is, to some extent true. Actually, I think it has a lot to do with how concepts and texts are presented and is hopefully less of a indictment on young people, who are actually completely fascinating and good to have around (sometimes).

I am thinking back to my “art education”. This is what I remember. High School art teacher who seemed quite nice, but thinking back must have been one inept teacher, if not artist. We started with the primary colour wheel and worked up to a secondary colour wheel round the first. Then somehow, it seemed to be time for a self-portrait. There may have been some intermediate stages, but I don’t remember them.

For a self-portrait we needed a mirror. Well I didn’t have a mirror. I was not a girly 11 or 12 year old with such accoutrements. I could hardly have removed the bathroom mirror from home without being skinned alive, so what was I meant to do. I had no money to buy a mirror. I didn’t bring in a mirror. Maybe I painted or drew something from memory. It wouldn’t have been very “good” as a piece. But, more importantly, the process of the production was painful and not a little humiliating “Wot no mirror you bad girl?”. The whole uncomfortable memory was topped off by the bitch teacher having nothing to say about me at the parents’ evening other than I had wilfully and with pure evil intent never brought in a mirror to facilitate my masterpiece.

Ok, she may not have exactly said that, but the message was clear. My response was of equal force: I hate “art” and I won’t be going near it again. And I didn’t.

When I moved to London I found I had quite a lot of time on my hands on weekends, so I would take myself to the theatre and to art galleries and musuems. And I discovered stories, the story of the piece or the person and that, to me, is what makes sense of what you see and respond to. It seems practically criminal now to show kids great paintings without putting them in their own contexts. Not exactly meaningless, but a real missed opportunity.

It is for this reason I have been enjoying the Modern Masters programmes on the BBC. The presenter needs a bit of a whack at times, but the positive side of his enthusiasm is that it engages kids. The eldest spent a little while yesterday watching with me; enjoying photos of Matisse in his taxi-bed cutting and sticking with giant shears. She was drawn in and she responded to what she saw. To be the kind of parent that as a bare minimum does not crush creativity like that fucking art teacher is my aspiration.

I am also thinking of doing some oil painting. I have warned the art tutor at college that I will a) be late most likely b) attempt to eat the paints c) be looking to emulate Van Gogh. Poor man. At least he won’t be able to grass me up to my mum.

Loving a hat

Posted on May 21, 2010, in Art, Children, Television and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Stephen Foster

    If only you’d have known this Bob Dylan song lyric:

    …Then she says, “I know you’re an artist, draw a picture of me!”
    I say, “I would if I could, but
    I don’t do sketches from memory”

    You could have said that to the teacher. Or something.

  2. We didn’t have Dylan in the car on those fat cartridge cassettes. We had:

    The Beatles
    Simon & Garfunkel
    The Rolling Stones
    The Dudley Moore Trio

    My favourite song was Ruby Tuesday, which kind of fits with the “whatever” approach I had.

    What Dylan song is it? I need to know for my oil painting class 🙂

  3. Actually I had another favourite.

    That’s for tomorrow.

  4. Stephen Foster

    Highlands from Time Out of Mind, one of his epics.


  5. At least you didn’t have the Spinners and Peter Skellern. That treat was clearly saved for the next generation.

    • Emily that is the curse of a child of the 80s.

      It is a particularly cruel aural curse in your case, especially as some of the music would have been delivered unto thine ears in a red box from Russia. 😉

  6. I’m an artist who is rubbish at drawing:
    it hasn’t stopped me from being creative:
    I think that’s why I love being visiting artist in schools ~ to engage those who think they can’t draw:
    I agree on your point about reference & contextualising in art and design:
    schools should concentrate more on children taking ownership of their own work and the process:

    you are brave to tackle oils:
    they scare me:

  7. You could have used tin foil and the crinkling and distortion could have been incorporated into your picture. More a impressionist self potrait distorted by foil. I don’t know if thats a technique used as i know nowt about art and can’t draw or paint to save my life. I’m thinking Picasso used this technique! 😉

    I’ve got a picture I painted with a year 5 class when I was training to be a teacher, based on pointalism, using sponges I keep threatening to send it to Stephen but it’s truly dreadful and nearly ended up all black as per ‘The Fast Show’s’ depressed artist.

    I really don’t know what I’m talking about but if you do use this technique and it’s a new technique I want some credit. You could call it the ‘Daftburger mirror cracked’ technique! Or maybe just Daftburger’s cracked technique! 😀

    • P.S. ‘All’ teacher try to suppress individualism and creativity so that the state is supplied with it’s unquestioning drones! 😦

      • I know about as much about art as you Daftburger. Does that mean you are an actual teacher?

      • If ever you could portray disbelief in this impersonal genre that’s it right there.

        Don’t worry I’m not a teacher the children are safe although I did complete 3 years of a four year course so may have influenced some tiny minds lol! 😀

      • Rudeness and Disbelief in one post: a notable double!

        I teach adults (16+) and am definitely against the sausage factory approach to education 🙂

      • See that’s what’s wrong with this genre misinterpretation but thanks for highlighting the rudeness that passed me by but I’m a simple soul!

        You have my sympathies with the 16+ crowd. I only ever fancied the primary age group, I don’t mean ‘fancy’, as it’s a chance of getting them before thay become disallusioned, not ‘getting’ them with the sausage (fnar, fnar) factory……..Daftburger’s head explodes! 😉

  8. I need to know if said art teacher was Miss Spencer at BHS who would disappear for most of the class into her cupboard and drink gin and wrinkle her stockings? Or someone else…?

    Miss Spencer once got our class to do a sheep dog trial – mine was appalling. Sam Winter’s (she went on to be head girl, not cool btw) picture was inspired with a load of sheep in a high court trial. Genius aged 11.

    • That’s a picture of sheep dog trial by the way – not an actual one. Although why you would ask a bunch of 11 year old girls to paint a sheep dog trial is beyond me – it was not really in our sphere of reference…

      • I don’t think it was Miss Spencer. Sheepdog trials – how bizarre. Perhaps she was pissed when she came up with that one.

        I wish our art experts were here to comment.

        Daftburger’s tin foil sounds quite tame in comparison.

  9. I have no relevant pearls of wisdom to add. Except to say that I did a mural once. It was Georgia O’Keefe-inspired (I was young, I liked pastels – give me a break). I think it still adorns the wall of a certain Catholic church in Lincoln.

    I also find it curious that I have just finished ghost-writing a book for an artist who couldn’t write for toffee. Maybe the disciplines (of art and writing – and maybe creativity in general?) are intertwined? I find myself feeling like a fraud when I am dishing out advice to new artists (primary colours, secondary colours, tertiary colours, analagous colours anyone?) eagerly buying the book that I have just written under the guise of some famous artist, to learn how so-and-so renders such-and-such. But hey, the mortgage is paramount.

  10. BTW, top marks on the comments score!

  11. Plug le livre then Mrs.

    And yes, comments rocked yesterday \o/

  12. Stephen Foster

    As a writer who went to art skool I can tell you that dislexia is an even more common trait than hussyness in the visually expressive.

    I ain’t surprised they need ghosts to translate for them.

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