Sunday, 31 July 2011

more life drawing

 I decided to spend some time building on my skills. I attended a day of life drawing . Most of the techniques were new to me. after a quick warm up of fast drawing we attempted a drawing not looking at the page. This produced a curious wiggly line with a life of its to do making sure never to lift the pencil!
Then we went on to try sketching out form and mass using brush an ink. we were encouraged to use a long can and brush so there was no way to do it but from a great distance..this was amazing!! and surprising results                                                                                                                                                  

Continuing on with paint and brush was this water colour over worked with pen line. ..the pillar is at an angle because of my photo!! it was not leaning when I drew her..she was!!.I liked working with brush and will try it again in the future. I particularily liked the sepia colour.
here 's the wiggly line drawing..looks like an old man

Back to working with pastel...conte and a drawing that took about three hours. It is a long time since I worked at a drawing for this long and it was very satisfying to do so. I am actually quite pleased with the results..but the head not quite to scale..worked on by me and tutor!!! must do more of this too. pastel seems to be a good medium for me. wondering if I can take photos next time of the process. something to try.

Nearby McLaren's home is this view of Stirling castle.
Any journey out of Stirling to the North would take you past a view like this.The castle dominates the town, and over the last few years the original great hall has been renovated and is available for functions!
Finn sang there with the National Boys Choir!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Archive

My placement during my masters has been at the archive at Stirling University

It has been a great experience, and I am so lucky to have made connections with so many brilliant people while I was here. Even the space is good. a light airy room with views and greenery!! It is a fair distance to travel but has really been worth it.....and the story does not stop here at the end of my placement.........

This is Karl Magee who runs the archive at Stirling University library
The building was officially opened  last August and was designed to house the archive and special collections in a very prominent spot near the entrance to the main university library. It has been a pleasure to work here as an intern, and I am delighted that once that time is officially over I will be visiting on a regular basis. My own reserch into Norman McLaren has been dependant on this archive for many of the personal details it has unearthed. But I will also be involved with the building for a special event this year.

The Macrobert Arts Centre next door will be 40 years old and there is to be a series of events to mark this.
I have met with Liam Sinclair, the director, and we are discussing a few ideas to span 2011 to 2014.
This is a really exciting development. Liam is also very keen to assist me to run a dance creative lab where I will begin choreographic ideas for my masters film. The idea is that these will also lead into a performance for 2014. There is also to be an exhibition in September of archive material. I have met the curator of that and I have already been assisting with ideas for this which are in part a response to my placement and to my research into McLaren.

At a time when I have been reading about how Norman made connections in his early years in New York, it feels very appropriate to be making so many connections myself! I feel I will enough material for at least two major projects...and am so glad I am part time!!
An exhibition, a dance, a garden, a film........Now I have to start looking for ways to fund them!!

One small piece of good news is that I have been awarded a small amount towards the ongoing work at the archive. I have begun to catalogue Norman's letters home as I research them. This will take a lot longer than the placement so I applied to the Association of Art Historians voluntary work fund. The fund will support me in my archive work... not part of the placement and so not part of my masters....I am really pleased.
Going into the future, some really great pieces of Norman's work have recently arrived from Canada and I may be one of the first here to see them... that would be a treat!!

There is still sooo much to do!

Drawings by Mclaren

On 30th June I met up with Jane Cameron at Pathfoot on the Stirling university campus.
She is in charge of Art Works at the university, but I know that we have dance in common as her daughter, Emily is a dancer. It turns out that Jane's father was at school with Norman..she only discovered this recently when she found an old Stirling High school prize giving programme . Her dad won cricket prize and Norman the art prize! Jane and I chatted about a number of things....and I showed her the book of drawings of Norman's. Like many people she had never seen this and was entranced by the work.

I wanted to meet Jane to enlist her help in my response to the archive. She recently pulled together an official opening of the library which involved dancers and musicians from RSAMD and I felt she would understand what I was trying to achieve. We had a great discussion and when we were looking through the drawings I told her about Norman's roof garden and that I would like to try to do one sometime .....maybe for the centenary. She immediately suggested we plant a bosc pear...and the idea grew quite quickly in to a centenary garden!!!! There a lot of other ideas growing around this..some coming from the most surprising sources!! I will start sketching out ideas.....and discussing possibilities.....
This is one of the drawings...Stress 1971.. hanging in the Pathfoot building is also included in the book I have....................................... In fact it is hanging at present in the Macrobert centre as part of the 40th birthday exhibition curated by Brian Hartley  ( update october 2011 )                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

The drawings which brought me to the garden idea  are a series on Pears.( see 'Les dessins de Norman McLaren' pp 144-149)  In particular the Bosc Pear. There is a paragraph also where he describes his obsession with the Bosc pear, at first with it's taste and then with it as an object.

I particularily like this, as this year I have begun, quite coincidentally, to look into heritage pears and how they came to Scotland via the monks who populated our local abbey in Lindores.( the Bosc comes from Belgium it seems)
Only two weeks ago we had a visit from a delegation from the Tiron district in France where the Tironesian monks began in 1114. The Bosc is included in a book recently sent from France and is a Beurre Bosc.This year I have also learned to graft fruit trees and find new ways to preserve the fruit I have growing in my own orchard. So to find that Norman was also interested in fruit set me looking at him in a different light. I have also unearthed letters where he describes his roof garden planted after he left Scotland, and discusses with his parents which flowers among his favourites have survived the roof garden!
I suspect he learned about gardens from his mother as most of the discussion is with her, and this has also led me to seek out the garden he grew up in. The garden is in Stirling, and was easy to find. It was a little more difficult persuading the occupants to let me wander and take photos at my leisure.

But here is the garden! There is a lawn and I have asked if I might come back to make a short film here.
The box hedge has been here since the McLaren family were here. I saw a photo (in the owners possession) of Norman and Guy in the garden with a much smaller box hedge!!

And in the far old apple tree!

I also read in one of Norman's letters about an apple tree that was in the garden so assume this is it. The apples are very small, and unusually there was still some blossom on it...very late!

So my trail of thought has led me to the idea of a garden to celebrate Norman.
Jane has even identified a possible site for we went off to look at it.
Pathfoot sits up high on the campus with amazing views across to the Wallace monument and the Ochil Hills.
The building has a large amount of glass and corridors with glass windows link various parts of the whole.

There is a timeless feel to these corridors....a great place to film site specific dance..and maybe I will include this in my eventual contribution to the centenary ...a long way off!!
There is a short film test by McLaren called 'Corridor' which looks a bit like this one. He has experimented in this test to make a continuous corridor which the camera appears to move along. I will use this idea at some point in conjunction with dance.

So as you reach the windows you look out both ways onto courtyards

Some are beautifully landscaped but this one is looking rather forlorn....plenty room for development...I leave pathfoot to let the idea settle and for both Jane and myself to think.......