Hello. My name is Christina and I was one of the participants in the first Art Macabre Summer School of Skulls. I am going to be blogging about my experiences each day – what we got up to, as well as my thoughts and feelings along the way.
I have to say that whilst very excited, I was also pretty nervous about the week. Though I do think of myself an artist, I studied Fine Art and university and now I teach art in a secondary school, I know that I am particularly good at drawing. (Though of course when in art teacher mode I would say that naturally everybody can draw and all drawing are of value, sometimes it can be hard to practice what you preach).
When at university I only drew very rough sketches as a way of planning sculptures and instillations. Now I am much more comfortable with a needle and tread than I am with a pencil. I do love drawing, but doing it in front of other people scared me, especially when I am so out of practice!
Thankfully, the lovely Nikki, put these fears to rest quickly – ‘no judgment’. This week, she said, was for us to develop our own personal practice and engage with our creativity. Perfect. The other participants seemed really friendly (I was confident no one would be mean about my slightly wonky drawings!). There were 13 of us – very appropriate number for this macabre week!
The first stop on our macabre tour of London was the extraordinary Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders. It’s been on my must-see list for ages but I had never made it, so I was very happy to have the opportunity to explore the collection whilst drawing it!
If you haven’t been Viktor Wynd’s collection is made up of strange taxidermy, natural history specimens, Victorian toys, artworks, shrunken heads and many more curiosities (…did I just spot a box of Russell Brands pubes….). It is so much fun to look around, there was so much to see that it was hard to decide what to draw. I am already planning another trip back.
Nikki set us the challenge of drawing a skull, something beautiful, something repulsive and something to scale. I quickly found a skull and sketched it (very roughly). I then found a strange double baby head thing, with roses where the mouths should be. It was repulsive, but also beautiful. I was really drawn to it although not sure why! Babies are lovely, roses are gorgeous and it looked like it was make of porcelain but all together it was just horrific. I decided to draw that too, along with a taxidermy mouse in a Santa hat with a toy reindeer (of course!) and a rare orchid.
After a quick break for lunch and a short walk, the second part of the day took place in the Art Macabre studios. Nikki has set up a still life with loads of reproduction skulls. We did timed drawings which was challenging – I struggled so much with the quickest sketches, though other people seemed to capture them so perfectly. I was reasonably happy with some of my drawings though, and I tried out my new inks, which produced a more stylised image but one that I was pretty happy with.
We had a quick break for tea and cake (which was covered in chocolate skulls and bones) then, did a final drawing, this time with a life model, holding a skull – of course! Now, if I found sketching skulls difficult, the life drawing was so much harder. It really is a skill you need to practice and it was a year since I last attempted it. It was really enjoyable, as working from the figure is so inspiring, however the resulting drawing was not good! But then, this was just the first day and it takes a while to get warmed up…