Way back in the 1970s, the decade of style, I was a new student in Swansea Art College, in the Foundation course on the ground floor of the old Evan Rees Butter building on the Kingsway. I vividly remember the first time I did life drawing. We’d never done such a thing in school. The first Thursday of the first week, we had only just started getting to know each other and we shuffled embarrassedly as we waited for the model to arrive. In came Mrs. Griffiths, a larger than life character in a loud dressing gown. She walked over to the stool in the middle of the studio and we all ducked behind our easels. David and Pat, our lecturers, had seen it all before. They told us to come out from behind our boards and get on with it. That was the start of my enduring love of life drawing, which continued throughout my art diploma course, where I was taught by the wonderful Glenys Cour.
After I graduated, that was the end of the life drawing sessions, there wasn’t the Lifelong Learning setup that we’re used to these days. I used to hassle friends and relatives to pose for me, but I really missed the experience of working with a professional model in a group with other artists. Then Swansea Print Workshop (SPW) opened at the end of the 1990s and I heard rumours that there was this chap, Steve Jones, who was running a life drawing group on Thursday evenings. That was it for me, I was back in the groove.
At the time, life drawing was deeply unfashionable, some art colleges didn’t teach it (some still don’t) but SPW has always been committed to encouraging drawing, a lot of printmaking processes are underpinned by the practice. Steve Jones has kept the Thursday life drawing group going for over twenty years now, with hardly a break for holidays or illness, and was joined a few years back by the monthly Wednesday morning group, organised by Patti McKenna-Jones.Life drawing seems to be coming back into fashion again, andrecently a couple of other groups have started in the area.
We’ve worked with some terrific models of all ages, shapes and genders and they’ve inspired this current exhibition that showcases the work done by many of SPW’s artists throughout the last two decades. There’s no teaching, people just pitch up with whatever materials they want to bring and get stuck in with charcoal, pastels, pencils, paint, inks, chalks – if it can be smeared onto paper it’s fair game, with a huge diversity of styles. We hope you enjoy looking at this new exhibition and here’s to the next twenty years of life drawing at Swansea Print Workshop.
Rosie Scribblah | www.scribblah.co.uk/about
Read more about 22 years of Life Drawing at SPW including an interview with Featured Artist, Simon Goss