At 6am our coach was in front of the old Plymouth museum. I found a seat next to a friend and chatted while we waited for the rest of the group. It was my first time on a coach and it had soft seats with buttons to make them recline and red curtains in the windows. We set off at 6:20 and me and my friends were excited but tired from being awake so early. A lot of my group slept for the first part of the journey but after we stopped at Exeter services to stretch our legs and get some snacks almost everyone stayed awake. We had another five hours or so of travel ahead so we talked about visits that each of us had made to London in the past and told each other funny anecdotes from our lives. I did some sketching trying out different character faces but my lines were a bit wobbly from the movement of the coach, and I kept dropping my rubber down the side of the seat.
As we travelled through London we took pictures out of the coach windows and pointed out buildings we recognized, like the Gherkin, MI6 and Big Ben. Our coach dropped us off close to Central Saint Martins and we walked the rest of the way. Central Saint Martins is a huge building and we noticed that the inside room was so vast that it was almost as cold as it was outside. We were given stickers to wear to show we were from Plymouth College of Art and ‘perylene maroon’ goodie bags from Cass Art. In my bag I had an A4 sketchbook, some pencils, a bottle of water and some snacks. We sat down to have some lunch while our student ambassador Ben played on a piano and we waited for some of the other groups from around the country to arrive.
After lunch we looked at all the other self-portraits from the different groups and a photographer took a picture of us in front of our own portraits. It felt amazing to have my self-portrait up in a gallery with other young artists’ work. There was a lot of variety in the style and techniques used in the portraits I saw. One group, from the Victoria and Albert museum, had used concertinaed paper with two portraits drawn on it so the one that you could see depended on the angle you viewed it from. Some of these were quite creepy to look at because one side would be a regular portrait and the other side looked strange or demonic. Other groups had worked with print, photography, pencils or collage. My group used acrylic paint on pieces of wood and I wrote about that process in a previous blog post.
After looking around the portraits all the groups were shown into a large room for a series of talks. We learned that even though there were hundreds of us there that day we only represented a third of the total members nationally! Some groups were so far away they couldn’t make it together and so one family had come alone. Those of us from Plymouth spent at least 12 hours travelling to London and back that day! We heard from Cecilia Weckstrom who told us that when she was younger she didn’t know what she wanted to study, and got an apprenticeship with a children’s book company and learned about graphic design, and now she works for Lego and is a Trustee for the NA&DSC. The director of the Saturday Club Trust, Sorrel Hershberg, and Jeremy Till, the Head of Central Saint Martins, both gave us information about the Saturday Arts Club and thanked the founders Sir John Sorrell and Lady Frances Sorrell.
When we came out of the room, ginormous pieces of paper were rolled out for us all to draw on and there were people holding big buckets with tons of crayons, pens and pencils for us to use. My group didn’t have a lot of time before we got back on the coach but we sat on the floor for a short while and I drew my friend and myself. There were a lot of cool doodles and there were tons of kids drawing each other. After that I bought myself a big red NatSatClub hoodie and we got back on the coach for the next part of our trip.
All the groups headed to different venues around London and mine headed to the Tate Britain gallery. We got a short tour around a few of the pieces of art on display and our tour guide and our tutor Kate encouraged us to talk about and critique what we saw. We studied each piece for a few minutes and tried to think of single words that described how we felt or the impression we got from the artworks. One piece that I found intriguing was Fiona Banner’s Break Point which is a huge canvas painted white with red marker pen text describing a chase scene from the movie Point Break. The shade of red that she used and the way the text got closer together towards the bottom of the piece made me tense and it seemed very aggressive. I haven’t seen the film, but I hope to soon so I can see what happens next!
We moved on to the Turner Prize 2016 Exhibition. The Turner Prize is a contemporary art award given every year to a British artist chosen from four nominees. My favourite piece on display was an installation by Michael Dean which was a pile of pennies equal to one penny less than its title, United Kingdom poverty line for two adults and two children: twenty thousand four hundred and thirty six pounds sterling as published on 1st September 2016. Me and my friends thought it would be fun to roll around in it all. It sounds like a lot of money but it didn’t feel like it when I saw it as a pile of pennies. There was an enourmous gold sculpture of a butt by Anthea Hamilton called ‘Project For Door (After Gaetano Pesce)’ and people were laughing and taking silly photos near it. I thought it was absurd in a funny way. Visitors were invited to write their thoughts about the exhibition and pin them up outside the gallery, so we did that and then left to make the long trip home.
On the journey home I took some more pictures of London lit up at night, and everyone was wide awake and in the back someone was playing music. It was such an exciting day, me and my friends ended up having laughing fits for ages for no real reason. We stopped at services to get dinner, but we panicked because we thought we had taken too long but it turned out we were back before most of the group. We settled down eventually and it got quieter and some people fell asleep, and I carried on working in my sketchbook. We got back to Plymouth at around 11 and I was exhausted. The whole day was absolutely amazing and I’m really thankful to have had the opportunity to be part of it.