I’m not sure how to put into words all the things I learnt while on my residency - I’m sure I’ll forget something vitally important, but here goes.
I actually started the residency with a lot of doubt - that I wasn’t good enough to be there (I’m still suspicious my acceptance was a clerical error?), that I didn’t know what I was doing, that I couldn’t even draw. It took a couple of days of pushing through it to realise I was happiest painting outside, and so this is where I spent most of my days - and this is where I started to feel comfortable, even confident, in drawing all the time, wherever I wanted, and not feel self conscious if other people saw me drawing.
I’ve always known theoretically that drawing from life is important, rather than drawing from photos, but it’s something I’ve always struggled with - not being able to decide what to draw, feeling self conscious about the people I’m with or even complete strangers who might look at my work, but these feelings have changed since my residency.
I got into a rhythm of going out and drawing whatever drew me in, taking lots of photos, and then going back to sit on the couch in the cosy living room, warm up with a hot chocolate, and thumbnailing ideas for my characters referencing the drawings and photos. I’d realise that I needed more detailed paintings of certain elements, and the next day go out with the purpose of finding that location and painting it again - and of course, find more interesting things as I was out, starting the whole process again. I started to realise what I want to draw, and how I want to capture it.
Drawing so much from life also really made me LOOK at things - in a way I haven't for a long time. I notice more textures, colours, shapes, and it makes me appreciate every little detail around me. The skill of looking is something that comes and goes for me, and I’ve realised it’s one of those muscles I need to continue to exercise when I get home.
I also did so much life drawing - I attended all the Draw Brighton sessions which I usually struggle to do, plus even went to a real life session with Scarlett (which also included some wonky drawings of each other on the train and a lot of drawings of dogs - probably my most joyful experience of the whole trip!) and realised how much I love drawing people (and dogs) from life. I attempted to draw strangers in cafes in Barmouth a couple of times with mixed success - but the experience really made me think it’s a skill I’m keen to improve!
Modelling for Draw Brighton’s portrait session was also a joy - sitting in Jake’s studio, listening to my favourite music, was actually a really surreal and calming experience, and seeing people’s drawings and paintings of me put a smile on my face for days!! I don’t want to play favourites, but seeing Jake’s drawing of me was another highlight of my residency, as I think he perfectly captured my serene feelings of that evening.
I’ve come away from this experience really understanding the importance of drawing from life, how much it forces me to simplify and use my own voice, but it’s also given me confidence that I am an artist and I can capture things however I want and whenever I want - it’s about the process of creating that makes me an artist rather than the success of the outcome. I’ve come home with a hunger to draw, paint, draw, paint, capture and understand everything, and it’s EXCITING.