Another very exciting venue was lined up for day three of the Summer School (I think I’ve said that every day so far!). Today we were visiting the Tower of London.
I haven’t been to the Tower since I was a little girl, when my mother took me. Apparently I went a bit strange when standing on the spot where Anne Boleyn was killed and started speaking about ‘having been there before’. Either I was locked in the tower in a past life, or was just a slightly creepy child. I had always wanted to go back (maybe I would remember something else?!) but it is pretty expensive and always packed, so I never got round to it. This meant that being taken there was as part of the Summer School was very exciting.
I am a bit of a history geek (especially when that history is dark and macabre) so I loved that we were able to join a tour. We followed a Beefeater while he explained about each of the towers and told tales of executions gone wrong and heads on spikes – it was brilliant! I also found out that the Tower used to be used to keep all the animals that were given to the Royal Family. Once they were given an elephant and having never seen one before, the guards had no idea how to look after it. Thinking that a ‘royal’ animal should be treated like royalty they gave him meat and bread to eat and port to drink! He died pretty quickly (no surprise!) There are now fantastic wire animal sculptures all around the tower, to commemorate this history.
I loved exploring the collections, looking at the armoury and instruments of torture. I drew a few objects, however with the number of people around I didn’t want to stop for long so only managed very quick sketches. None of these were great drawings but are perfect as visual notes, to remind me of what I saw.
I was particular interested in the ‘graffiti’ that had been carved into the walls of one of the prison towers. From simple letters, to whole coats of arms and really intricate reliefs, they were incredible and really made you think about the amount of time that some prisoners spent looked up. Some of those carvings must have taken years.
It was really inspiring to be in a place with so much history. Whilst I didn’t have any other past life experiences, I did really feel the presence of all those people who inhabited the Tower. I found the architecture really interesting and spent a bit of time sketching it (though it started to rain so I never finished).
After a quick break for coffee and dinner, it was time to re-join Art Macabre for an evening life drawing salon. This was not exclusive to the Summer School, but we were all invited along. The night was themed around Josephine Baker – the siren of the tropics – and we had the incredible dancer/choreographer Brooklyn Sanchez channelling the spirit of Josephine.
As well a recreating some typical Josephine Baker poses, Brooklyn also performed a unique routine inspired by Josephine’s infamous banana skirt dance, but with a 21st century twist. A jazz soundtrack and delicious tropical cocktails from the bar helped to create a fabulous exotic atmosphere (even if the very British rain storm outside tried it’s best to dampen it!).
In my blog post from day one of the Summer School I said I found life drawing difficult, and I still don’t think I was there with my drawing. Try as I might, I could not get the proportions right. I did start to get more confident and improve as the evening went on but I still need to practice more. I guess that means I just need to go to more Art Macabre events!
After a full day at the Tower and then life drawing in the evening to I was exhausted! I definitely needed a good rest before picking up my pencil again for day four…