Last year I was a member of the National Saturday Art and Design Club at Plymouth College of Art. We got to experiment with different media and artforms throughout the year, and take trips to local exhibitions as well as two trips to London for bigger NatSatClub shows featuring our work alongside work made by other groups.
Our final trip to London was on the 17th of June. We met up really early to catch our coach just after 6am so we could get to the exhibition at Somerset House around 11am. It was really busy as hundreds of young people from NatSatClubs around the country had come to see their work on display. We were greeted and each given goody bags of art supplies, water, and snacks, and shown in to the first area where all the Masterclass work was on display. Our Masterclass was in making word drawings with Barnaby Barford.
Next we went upstairs and had a look around the different clubs’ work. Plymouth sent in a lot of our work, and the pieces that were chosen for display were our beach glass jewellery, and our glass houses which we made in a class led by our Student Ambassador Ben Lintell.
This video shows our glass houses lit from below with a torch to cast shadows on the white wall.
We were all called into a large room filled with benches for a speech by the National Saturday Club founders, Lord and Lady Sorrell. Then we were called up one by one and received our Certificates and Yearbooks.
After the ceremony some of our group went to the National Portrait Gallery, but I stayed to look around the exhibition for a while longer. There was a huge amount of different types of work on display by young people from the many clubs, including zines, puppets, film, fashion and ceramics.
At the end of the day, we met up with the rest of the group to get back to the coach. Unfortunately, the coach had overheated (it was a really hot day!) and was broken down, leaving us stranded in London! Our group leaders brought us all water to drink and we took a walk around Covent Garden watching a clown and looking in the Moomin shop. The coach was fixed in an hour or so, and we headed back on the five hour journey home.
I was sad that some of the work I was most proud of from our many projects wasn’t put on display, but I hope to be able to put photos up of those pieces here soon, and I did have a really good day. It was really amazing seeing so much work from young artists all in one place and I was really inspired by all that I saw. I would recommend joining the group to anyone aged from 14 to 16 who likes art and really wants to try different things.
Below are some photos of work from National Saturday Clubs all around the country. I have included lots here so that people who didn’t get to go on the trip can still enjoy some of the work we saw.
Here are some links to previous posts I have written about NatSatClub:
We have been given a project at our NatSatClub to choose a word from the Devon Dialect and then illustrate it. I made a long list of words, some of my favourites are:
Snishums : Sneezing
Flink : To sprinkle
Zummit : Something
Drumbledrone : Bumblebee (apparently this one was inspiration for Dumbledore’s name!)
I chose to illustrate the word ZART which means “daft”. I looked up the meaning of daft and its synonyms. They fell into two main groups, one with words like “stupid”, “idiotic”, and other not very nice words. The other group contained “eccentric”, “absurd”, “peculiar” and “crackers”, and I thought that this group had a more fun and friendly character, and would be good to illustrate.
I thought about this group of synonyms and tried to make a list of my visual ideas. I came up with lots including Wonka, circuses, spirals, dizziness, wonky, uneven, twist, and drunkenness.
Next I made sketches with the letters in “zart”, trying different forms of the letters and playing with the sizes and the way they came together.
At this stage I had chosen a basic shape I liked. I drew it out bigger and tried it out as an outline and a sort of silhouette version. I started adding extra parts, like a Mad Hatter top hat and drunken bubbles popping. I felt that these would give an eccentric dizzy feel to the illustration.
After I had a good idea of what I wanted I tried a sketch using a thick graphite stick to help me make the letters flow better and to be more expressive. I played with this a bit erasing and adding to it, thickening the letters, changing the way they sloped and trying out stripes. When I was happy I copied my design out in ink using my Pentel brush pen.
I really liked my design as it was but I wanted to fill in some of the stripes with the black ink to finish it off. I haven’t coloured it yet but I think that this piece would work really well in a purple shade with either a green or an orange as a secondary colour. The final black and white version is at the top of this post.
It is fun learning about different words and doing this project reminded me of the Devon Words art project by Caitlin Hennessy which I saw at last year’s Weekender exhibitions and which I wrote about here. I really enjoyed this project and will definitely be doing more lettering and illustrating with words in the future.
I bought some cotton bags from Hobbycraft for £1 each so that I could try printing on them at home with my Plymouth Pilgrims linocut which I made at my NatSatClub. I washed the bags and they shrunk quite a bit, and I couldn’t get them completely flat with the iron but I like the slightly crumbly texture they have. The other equipment I used was:
Blue Essdee Block-printing ink which I bought from Cass Art (Bristol)
A stainless steel serving spoon to use as a baren
A thick slab of glass to roll the ink on
The four inch roller from the Essdee Cutting and Printing kit bought from the The Art Side (Plymouth)
Attempt #1 – I used cardboard inside the bag in case the ink bled through and the usual amount of ink I would use for printing on paper. The print is visible but looks pale or faded. There was no ink on the inside of the bag. I thought that I needed to apply more ink next time and wondered if the cardboard had cushioned the fabric so that the pressure from the spoon wasn’t enough to transfer the print.
Attempt #2 – I removed the cardboard so there was nothing inside the bag and used a thicker layer of ink. The ink did bleed slightly on the inside of the bag but it was quite a patchy print. I decided I needed a thin protective layer inside the bag and to apply more pressure to the spoon.
Attempt #3 – I used a thin piece of paper inside the bag to protect it from ink bleeding and a thick layer of ink. I put greater pressure on the spoon in all areas. The paper took any ink that bled through but the print was still a little patchy. The print wasn’t aligned properly on this bag but it was my best attempt so far.
Attempt #4 – A thick layer of ink, a lot of pressure with the spoon, and a layer of paper inside the bag. I aligned the bag carefully and went over the print area thoroughly and with a lot of effort with the back of my spoon. This print looked really good although I did lose definition in some areas because of how thick the ink layer was on the lino.
I enjoyed this experiment and I’m going to make some more block-printed bags soon. I need to find a better way to apply more consistent pressure with the equipment I have at home because the spoon works well with paper and card but doesn’t work as well with the fabric. I really like my design and I’m glad it looks good on bags. I don’t know if the ink will stay on the bags in wet weather or if it will wash so I’m going to test one of these bags after they’ve had time to dry properly and look at different types of ink.
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 Pointwhich 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.
This post is going to cover what I did during the first half of autumn term at the National Art and Design Saturday Club at the Plymouth College of Art. My tutor is Kate Marshall. Kate is an artist who works in all sorts of media and enjoys experimenting with unusual materials from the sites she is researching. Our student ambassador is Ben Lintell. Ben is a student at PCA studying Contemporary Crafts and he creates paper and glass sculptures.
During the first half term we were working with self-portraits and figure drawing. We started with drawing our self-portraits with paper and pencil. I used a mirror and something I found difficult was that any small movements I made would throw me off. I worked entirely in HB pencil because that was all I had with me that day. I think I captured my expression pretty well but I think I could have made it more realistic if I used different pencils.
Next we were given a square of wood each to draw another self-portrait on. I’ve never drawn on wood before and it was hard to erase the pencil marks so I had to use less working lines than usual. I worked from a photo of myself on my phone this time and it was slightly easier than from a mirror, because there was no movement and I could zoom in to investigate details.
I then started painting my self-portrait on the piece of wood with acrylic paints. Kate advised us not to use one colour for our skin as that would make it look fake, but to look closely for blues, greens and other hues. I studied my photo and found lines, shadows and different shades of pinks, browns, greens and blues. I mixed up the different colours on a palette and used two different brush sizes, a medium-sized flat one for covering bigger areas and a slightly smaller round brush for details. I wasn’t able to find a very small brush for fine detail. I don’t normally work with acrylic paints but I enjoyed testing them out. Acrylics are opaque and not transparent like the watercolours I normally use. I watered my paints down a little to make them easier to use and I noticed that when I used colours on top of a layer of white they were more vivid.
Our self-portraits were put on display in Central Saint Martins in London alongside other National Saturday Club groups from around the country. Here is a photo of all the portraits from the Plymouth College of Art group:
We also spent a session speed-drawing each other in different poses and holding or wearing different costume items to practice figure drawing. I did some using my 4B graphite stick and some using charcoal. The charcoal is darker and has a more textured line whereas the graphite gave a smoother line. I found that both allowed me to be more expressive and use bigger gestures than when I use a pencil.
I really enjoyed drawing the different poses and body shapes and found that our quick drawings sometimes didn’t even look human. I want to do a lot more figure drawing as it will help me improve my character design and comic art. I’d also like to do some life drawing lessons but I haven’t found any classes locally that will accept students of my age yet. I’ve signed up to an Udemy course on Anatomy for Figure Drawing (I got this discounted and there are sales quite often on Udemy) and I have been drawing poses from magazines.
Below are some of the sketches I’ve done recently from photos in my NEO magazines. I have been doing very quick sketches of body frameworks using simple lines joined by small circles for joints, and bigger shapes for heads and body sections. I saw this technique used to show figures in action in How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema. It is a good way to investigate poses and movement. In some places I have used coloured pencil to add more details later.
In this last picture I made up my own poses from my imagination and memory. I feel that my skills have already begun to improve because of this exercise and the work we’ve been doing at the Saturday Club.