Drawn to Life: workshops at The Artistry House for The Big Draw Festival

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Above: A drawing workshop participant eyes up her chosen plant specimen. We referenced John Ruskin quotations as thought provoking mottos within the sessions.

I was super pleased when The Artistry House people asked me to host  drawing workshops with them, for The Big Draw in October 2019, together with The Friends of Winckley Square.

 The Big Draw  is the world’s largest drawing and visual literacy festival and this year its theme ‘Drawn to Life’ celebrates  the benefits of being actively creative, to make positive change and improve wellbeing. The festival brings people together all over the world, to champion the ever increasing evidence, both anecdotal and academic, that a more creative life really can improve your health. Our sessions were inspired by nature and we took up John Ruskin’s approach to ‘drawing as a way of seeing’.

Drawing as a way of seeing”

Like Ruskin, I believe that drawing can be a disciplined, intensely mindful practice. Its a way to learn directly through observation of the world in all its inter-connected complexity, by and for oneself, rather than to only learn about it at second hand, from the distance of written language or as mediated by the education system.

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Live art demonstrations and hands on drawing sessions took place throughout the afternoon.  Artists of all ages, with a wide range of previous experience, from novices to art professionals, took part.

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Sketchbook page. Fiona Candy.

The Artistry House guests joined in spontaneously to observe nature, react and respond to what they saw, by drawing. We worked with colour and the range of media provided. Differing approaches were encouraged and an openness to experimentation allowed exchanges of skill and experience. The beautifully restored interior of The Artistry House, and the many artworks and objects on display,  enforced a sense of creativity as a way of being.  There was a connection to nature and to each other, made through drawing … as the mellow autumn sunlight streamed in.

A restorative, inspirational afternoon.  Thank you to everyone who took part.

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Above and below:  intense observation, the ‘cherry blossom’ gaze.

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Special thanks to Uzma Padia for her assistance and to all at The Artistry House.

See our event on The Big Draw’s website here

Outdoor Art School: making our mark in the park.

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In addition to the drawing activities at The Artistry House, I devised and led a series of group walking activities for The Big Draw and Preston Arts Festivals, in association with The Friends of Winckley Square. These walks meandered through Avenham and Miller Parks in the centre of Preston, during October 2019. On each walk a sequence of perceptual exercises took place at different locations and introduced creative techniques to tune in to and be inspired by the surroundings, particularly ephemeral atmosphere and sensory qualities.

creative kit 2Walkers’ creative ‘kit':  containing A5 notebook/sketchbook, pencil, graphite stick, wooden peg … and in this case, a horse chestnut seed. Each kit contained a seed from a different species of tree.

IMG_0607Some moments recorded on the walks, are shown below.

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Slowing down and getting into the right state of mind and body… 

IMG_0678Perceiving  connections, sensing and ‘drawing’ lines…

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IMG_0835 (1)We used the flights of 17 x stone steps, to make a somatic, rhythmic link to the  17 x syllable format of traditional haiku poetry (three lines, made up of 5, 7 and 5 syllables)

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The haiku writing exercise continued at different locations: at the cut grass circle, along the river, around the fountain and in the bandstand.

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Above: distilling the essence of moments. Examples of our draft haiku descriptive writing, pegged in situ ( click on images to expand them and click back to return).

Bringing awareness to the present moment has been shown to improve mental health and physical wellbeing. It can be especially helpful for those feeling weighed down by the past, or fearful of the future. Becoming more in touch with surroundings can aid feelings of calm, connection and balance.

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IMG_0773On each walk we made  collaborative artworks and placed them midway across the old railway bridge over the river Ribble, as material reminders of the benefits to mind and body of creativity and being fully present in the moment.

We interpreted the perpetually flowing river as a metaphor for time passing and the midway crossing point on the bridge as neither past or future: a site at which to celebrate our communal NOW moment.


IMG_0785On one of the walks we made graphite drawings, rubbings and interpretations of atmosphere, using pre-prepared templates to stimulate creative approaches to composition.

We then compiled all the drawings using magnets onto the side of the old iron bridge:

IMG_0856On a separate walk, we collected yellow as we moved through the park, then sorted into shifting autumnal shades to create a vibrant  circle.

As an ancient symbol of holism and unity, our circle seemed both enduring and ephemeral.

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Thanks to

You BDThank you to all the walkers for their generous creative participation and also to Manda Johnson-Holme and Glennis Hulme for their encouragement and support.

And a special thanks to Tony Lewis, Park Warden for Avenham and Miller Parks and Friend of Winckley Square,  for his support and creative input to The Big Draw activities.

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At the end of one of the walks, I recorded this synchronistic moment, from the middle of the old iron railway bridge.

 

See our event on The Big Draw’s website here

References:

Some touchstones in the development of these creative walks have been

Paul Klee (1879 – 1940) Klee’s highly individual art style was influenced by Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism. He was a natural draftsman who also deeply explored colour theory. He taught at the Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. https://www.paulklee.net

Hannah Tuuliki is a Finnish/Scottish contemporary artist working in the landscape, with voice, drawing and gesture. https://www.hannatuulikki.org

Richard Long – one of Britain’s best-known land artists. http://www.richardlong.org

Nancy Holt (1938-2014) An american artist who pioneered a unique aesthetic of perception, as a key member of the Earth, Land and Conceptual art movements. http://www.nancyholt.com

Hamish Fulton – English artist who translates his walking into a variety of media. http://www.hamish-fulton.com

Andy Goldsworthy OBE is a British artist known for his site-specific installations involving natural materials and the passage of time. Andy studied art at Preston Polytechnic. Watch a recent film about his work here: https://www.leaningintothewind.com

C.G. Jung (1875 –1961) Swiss born founder of analytical psychology, Jung was also an artist, craftsman and builder as well as a prolific writer. He cited an intense period of art making as hugely influential in the development of his theories of the unconscious. Suggest his last book, an autobiography ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ as a starting point.

‘The Spell of the Sensuous. perception and language in a more-than-human-world.’ David Abram. Vintage Books. David Abram is an American philosopher, cultural ecologist, and performance artist, best known for his work bridging the philosophical tradition of phenomenology with environmental and ecological issues. https://wildethics.org

‘Presence’ is a leading British Haiku journal. www.haikupresence.org

Schumacher College is an internationally renowned learning community in Devon, offering ecology-centred masters programmes and short courses.   https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk

The Big Draw

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The world’s largest drawing and visual literacy festival and this year its theme ‘Drawn to Life’ celebrates and explores the benefits of being actively creative to make positive change and improve wellbeing.

The festival brings people together to champion the ever increasing evidence, both anecdotal and academic, that a more creative life really can improve your health.
At The Artistry House, Winckley Square, Preston. 
 https://www.theartistry.house
Saturday 12th October 2019 12 – 4pm

Live art sessions hosted by artists Fiona Candy and Atlantic Contemporary, will run informally throughout the afternoon. Join the Big Draw with the Friends of Winckley Square on Saturday 12th October for ‘HUMAN-NATURE’ at The Artistry House, 16 Winckley Square, Preston. The Artistry House doors will be open from 12 – 4 and you are welcome to pop in at any time during the afternoon to be inspired by art and explore the house.  You are invited to participate and explore your creative side with live art sessions on portraiture and inspired by nature.”

Please note art places will be limited and provided on a first come first serve basis.

For booking information see Eventbrite: here