I've been thinking a lot about my grandfather over the last few weeks. Once, when I was at school, he sent me a detail of a marrow plant that he drew when he was 14.
On the back of the photograph he had written the following advice, along with some somewhat tongue-in-cheek thoughts on modern art education:
"If you have a standard to work to it's quite easy. Get a similar object, don't speak and give it 100% of your concentration. Measure and examine its cross-section, structure, pattern etc. Start from the inside, for example, plot the veins of the leaves, flowers etc. including those you cannot see, ending up with its outside or visual appearance. I looked at Durer's drawing of a columbine."
He went on: "To do modern art you must never stop talking. This helps to stifle any logical thought on criticism. Also you need not look at your work while you are doing it, which would impede the flow of conversation or verbal diarrhoea. If you do this you should become popular with other people because they will feel comfortable in your presence and able to discuss your work with as much authority as you who have done it - as they do with other modern artists and musicians. I believe this is much easier to do. It is certainly quicker and more profitable."
Well, it isn't exactly a marrow, but taking the spirit of the advice I have just finished a 50-or-so hour stretch on drawing a cast taken from Michelangelo's David. Depressingly, I'm not quite sure my skills as a draftsman are much of a match yet for my prodigious grandfather at 14, but the exercise of producing this has certainly taught me a lot. The next cast I am tackling is an ear taken from the same series of features - this time in charcoal.
Incidentally, if anyone visited the exhibition in Stroud it would be great to hear what you thought, so do drop me a comment here if you have time.
Ben Laughton Smith
Aspiring artist, training in the classical tradition.