Being an artist defines my life. However, in addition to making, the teaching of Art is also my passion. Watching students who are convinced that they cannot draw, begin to grow in confidence and take pleasure in perceiving the world around them differently in just a few lessons, is what keeps me coming back for more.
An instructor may choose from any number of starting points. There will always be subjects that feel more accessible to students and therefore, will provoke a more positive reaction from the outset. Equally, there are certain lessons that upon introduction, are received with apprehension, dread or even fear.
Last week in my drawing class, I decided to explore architecture as my theme with my students. For them, this immediately conjured up images of rulers, set squares, measured proportion and impossible perspective. They were unconvinced and so it was my mission to change their point of view in an enjoyable way.
Being a city girl, the urban environment is not unfriendly to me but rather where I feel at home and most inspired. What I see in architecture and cityscapes is energy, dynamism and presence. Colour, texture, character and scale all interest me visually. My reaction is never one of intimidation.
So as a teacher, how do I bridge that gap for students and talk them round? Firstly, there are no rulers and hopefully no straight lines in my class. I have learnt to avoid in depth explanations of 3 point perspective, finding that being armed with too much information only tightens and worries students more. Instead, I throw them in at the deep end, with a series of short burst exercises that distract them and require such complete engagement that they quickly forget about their anxiety and preconceptions.
I also emphasize the need to experience the scene or building as a whole, especially in the initial stages, rather than fussing with details. Using broad tools and certainly dispensing entirely with erasers is very much encouraged. If students are using photographs, I have them use them as a loose reference initially but then soon after, have the students set them aside so they may first observe but then yield to a more intuitive response. This way, I hope that they will achieve a pleasing balance between observed detail and elements of abstraction and fancy.
As an artist, what you choose to edit, extract or disregard is what is right for you. You are using your voice and it is your story to tell. S o, if someone starts counting windows and tells you that you’ve missed one, well, they may be right but they will most likely be missing the point. In this case, a pleasing and engaging artwork is a better goal that an exhaustive report. Leave that to the engineers.
Actually, I have been surprised how often engineers and even architects have come to my classes. In spite of all their technical skill and knowledge, their drawings most often have a different underlying purpose and intention. Their drawings have been made to clearly communicate information that can be universally interpreted and understood without dispute. The reason they come to class is to see differently, loosen up and express a more personal response to their subject matter.
So, if you are ever inspired to take architecture or city scape as your theme, be reassured that all the shapes you see are shapes that you already know. It is unlikely that anyone will ever directly compare your work to the actual scene and measure it in terms of its accuracy. So put your energies into enjoying the rhythms, sensations, the colours and textures and the play of light on structures and forms.
My students did all change their minds. After a 3-hour class, they had made peace with architecture and to my knowledge, not a single window was counted.
All Images Are © Bythe Scott
Bythe Scott Artist Bio
In 1969, Blythe Scott was born in Glasgow, Scotland. Being the daughter of two Art teachers, aesthetic matters were given much importance during her upbringing. Therefore, it was very natural that Blythe should attend Art School, understanding that the creative journey would be a valuable and even essential experience in itself.
It was during her daily journey to The Glasgow School of Art, that she began to notice the beauty of Glasgow’s Victorian architecture. The wrought iron detailing, the stained glass, the red and blond sandstone structures, all exuded a wealth of decoration and form on an imposing scale.
Spending each day on the sixth floor of the Art School, she had the opportunity to survey the cohesive and inspiring architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the moody, ever- changing city skyline. The slate-covered roof tiles and domes she looked down upon, which were often glazed in rain, were to leave their mark and inspire an endless enquiry into architecture and the urban environment.
At the same time, she further fed her appetite for beautiful cities by traveling as often and as widely as she could, deepening her obsession for architecture and cityscape. While Glasgow offered a great deal of source material, foreign cities seemed bathed in dazzling colour and light by comparison.
Blythe graduated in 1991 with an honours degree and then in 1997, she achieved a post graduate with distinction in Art and Design Education from Strathclyde University. Since then, she has travelled to and lived in various cities around the world and has worked as a decorative artist, gallery artist, gallery assistant and a passionate teacher of adults and children.
Currently, she continues to offer various adult classes and workshops at various venues such as Vancouver Island School of Art and Art School Victoria. However, most of her time is spent in her studio, working with watercolour, acrylic, mixed media and collage, underpinned with rigorous drawing on a variety of scales. She also produces signed, open and limited edition prints, based upon the cities she knows well. Her work is in private collections in North America, the UK, mainland Europe and Australia.
Website: Blythe Scott
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