I'm never bored when I carry my sketchbook with me, and I carry my sketchbook with me all the time. Usually, I draw people.
The year started with the theme of the figure in the landscape - life-drawing in the main space of the Mall Galleries. Paul Newland got us to draw tonally, from the edges of the picture to the space around the model. Many in the New English Art Club place one colour next to another, establishing boundaries by edging areas together. Then the colours are right. I thought about that for most of the year. But I liked lines as well and wanted to keep them. “How do you know where to put the paint?” I asked Paul. He said he just knew.
In other workshops, we drew outside. We tried new subjects - an outdoor market, a train station - and views I'd forgotten I liked, like trees hanging over the Serpentine. The next day, in the Mall Galleries Learning Centre, we developed the drawings, reflecting on all that information gathered. I must have looked stumped, as Charles Williams told me to turn my sketch upside down as a way of seeing the big shapes. It helped.
The core part of the year was Tuesday evening in the Learning Centre, life-drawing – a discipline, slowing down, going back and getting the right shapes. I preferred to draw with paint but they didn't mind. Smiling, one tutor suggested I set my easel straight, not leaning to one side, and turn my palette the other way round. Peter Clossick talked about one tone or value that stays the same, like a key.
The scholarship enabled me to visit the studios of NEAC members. Seeing larger paintings in progress and smaller studies. Turning sketchbook pages - a self-portrait in Biro, a pencil study of an old girlfriend, parents reading. We brought the artists our pictures. It felt like a good conversation. My favourite part of the year.
As for the future, they all said - particularly my mentor, Mick Kirkbride – have ambition for your work. Push it a bit further. I like to think there is greater clarity in the drawing, and the colours are cleaner. In some paintings, on the beach, in the park, figures start to emerge.