This was my first OCA study visit and I wasn’t prepared for just how much knowledge I would gain and what fun I would have!
Jim Cowan and his wife Claire lead the day and it was incredibly informative and inspiring. It was really helpful to have each room of the Estorick Gallery put into historical context (courtesy of Jim) and we spent time sketching and discussing the work throughout the day. It was also really good to meet other students as this is a rare treat with doing so much home study.
The first piece I was drawn to sketch was Renato Guttuso, News-stand 1965, oil on canvas. (Unfortunately I am struggling to find an image online to link this to). I chose this painting to draw because the colours that Guttuso had used were incredibly vibrant and the way the papers were displayed and piled up on the stand were really interwoven and layered so as a composition it was quite complex and interesting.
Claire gave us lots of advice about how to make notes/sketches of what we saw in our sketchbooks, and to initially go about putting down the overall shape of the piece before adding in the detail.
She also reminded us to write down approximate sizing of the artwork even if it isn’t listed in the details of the piece which is something I wouldn’t have thought to do. She also suggested we question what it is we want to record rather than just making a straight copies of the images. For example, is it composition that we are interested in, the dynamics of the picture? Or is it the colour etc. Also she reminded us to note down buts that catch our eye and to remember to annotate as much as possible with information that is relevant to our interest.
I particularly liked a piece called Butchered lamb, 1974) (https://twitter.com/estorick/status/571220202353881088). I spent time talking through the composition, the colours, looking at the areas left unpainted and I found it incredibly helpful to be guided in what to look for when critiquing a painting.
We then also had the chance to look at the beautiful charcoal and ink drawings of Peter de Francia and when discussing with Claire that one of them reminded me of a Dumas picture she then helpfully guided me in ways I could try using ink and wash drawings myself (which is something I had wanted to do post-seeing the Dumas exhibition but hadn’t yet explored the appropriate methods). This is a sketch of ‘Mother and Child’ – I think I was really drawn to this particular image as he had captured the struggle of the baby and the struggle that was going on between the mother and child (something I can still relate to with my own children!).
We then were guided to look at paintings in the remaining rooms and two drawings that really caught my attention were by Umberto Boccioni – Elderly Seated Woman 1908, and Seated Woman 1907. They were done in charcoal and chalk on paper and were incredibly atmospheric. The face of the woman in Elderly Seated Woman was really gestural, almost cubist in its style and it was really helpful to have Claire point out that there was a brown colour underneath all the charcoal work – something I hadn’t noticed until she had shown me.
The day was a thoroughly enjoyable one and the most valuable thing for me was to have one to one help with the ways in which to go about reviewing paintings, what to look for and how to approach each one. I want to remember for my next gallery visit to look at composition, to look more closely at the way the materials have been applied and to try and see the colours and methods used to enable me to learn more, which I can then attempt to apply to my own work. I feel as though a door has been opened on my perception from this study visit and I am really excited to put my newly found knowledge into practice.