PROFESSIONALLY SPEAKING

Building Blocks

PA Mariana Robinson explains how SAA tutors and art clubs can work together on one-off projects

Earlier this year Didi Jepson, from the St Mark Art Group in Cheltenham, asked me to tutor her group in the use of acrylics. Didi has been running the group for ten years and it can be difficult to keep painters constantly stimulated. She had found my details through the SAA Directory and wanted my help to jump-start group members out of their comfort zone into new territory.

It was the 150th anniversary of the building of St Mark’s Church in September 2012 and the art group, which regularly meets at the church hall, had been asked to come up with a project to epitomise this milestone. I suggested that I give a workshop on the use of Atelier Interactive Acrylics, as well as more basic acrylic instruction, and at the same time I would introduce a project which would involve all of them equally but was not “just another art exhibition”.

I suggested to Didi that we create a large composite painting - five feet by four feet - where each person would be responsible for painting a 12-inch square tile. I would start the day by explaining and demonstrating the varied uses of Atelier Interactive Acrylics, then over lunch we’d discuss the more serious business of the upcoming project.

I stipulated that we should stick to a limited palette in order that the whole theme gelled together at the end, and we agreed on five colours: Cobalt Blue, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, White and a little Bright Orange – because the roof tiles were a rich shade of this colour.

Didi got all of the card tiles cut to exactly the same size, and she was still painting each one with primer when I arrived that day. A fun morning was had by all as I demonstrated the paints and then let people have a go with palette knives, household filler for texture and imprinting texture using bubble wrap, string, sponges and other household items. When we began the afternoon project we made a list of the outside features of the church – the spire, bell tower, ornamentation, roof lines, gargoyles, doors, stained glass windows, clock, porticos and even buttresses.

Unfortunately once we’d discussed all of this and given each person a specific feature to paint, the heavens opened and we spent a soggy few minutes outside, observing this magnificent church – most of which was looking up into raindrops. Many people had cameras so at least we had some reference material with which to work.

I was really impressed with the enthusiasm shown for this composite project and steered pairs of painters who were constructing the large stained glass window, the doorway and the spire. First attempts showed up a number of difficulties, mainly to do with mathematics rather than art, and they all learned that accurate measurements and a sense of scale for each feature were going to be paramount.

Some weeks later, Didi invited me back to see the finished work and to help her put it all together, ready for hanging in the church. When I saw what they had all achieved, I was absolutely delighted.

Top of Window by Gill Wren and Bottom of Grand Window by Jean Townsend  Mariana and Didi

They had really gone to town on the texture element. Pat Selby painted the church gateway using raised texture for the stonework and milk bottle tops and wire for the ornate ironwork above; Didi did the bell tower and used filler and texture for the stonework, whilst Nina Greening spent hours cutting out gold tape to make all of the roman numerals on the clock face. Most people were not natural acrylics painters, so as well as getting to grips with a group idea, they also had to master a new medium.

Jill Wren and Jean Townsend did a magnificent job on the top and bottom of the main arched window, working together carefully with their measurements, colours and textured stonework. Betty and Neville Cripps had worked on four tiles to paint the church spire, and Ken Robbins’ tile depicted the architect and construction team when this area of Cheltenham was a rural village served by a railway along the Bristol to Birmingham line. The grounds of the church used to be Lower Alstone station and it was by rail that most of the stones were brought from nearby Cotswold quarries.

St Mark Art Group with their work

The tiles were positioned onto a backing board and given a coat of binder medium and varnish. They are being displayed in the church now to celebrate the 150th anniversary.

As a tutor, I’d like to congratulate all of the club members. I was really pleased with the discipline and skill they showed in working on a big project together – just as the stone masons and carpenters had done 150 years ago.

Mariana Robinson runs regular tutoring groups, demonstrations and one day workshops in watercolour and Atelier Interactive Acrylics. She can be contacted on 01594 530484 or visit www.mariana-art.co.uk


PROFESSIONALLY SPEAKING

Building Blocks

PA Mariana Robinson explains how SAA tutors and art clubs can work together on one-off projects

Earlier this year Didi Jepson, from the St Mark Art Group in Cheltenham, asked me to tutor her group in the use of acrylics. Didi has been running the group for ten years and it can be difficult to keep painters constantly stimulated. She had found my details through the SAA Directory and wanted my help to jump-start group members out of their comfort zone into new territory.

It was the 150th anniversary of the building of St Mark’s Church in September 2012 and the art group, which regularly meets at the church hall, had been asked to come up with a project to epitomise this milestone. I suggested that I give a workshop on the use of Atelier Interactive Acrylics, as well as more basic acrylic instruction, and at the same time I would introduce a project which would involve all of them equally but was not “just another art exhibition”.

I suggested to Didi that we create a large composite painting - five feet by four feet - where each person would be responsible for painting a 12-inch square tile. I would start the day by explaining and demonstrating the varied uses of Atelier Interactive Acrylics, then over lunch we’d discuss the more serious business of the upcoming project.

I stipulated that we should stick to a limited palette in order that the whole theme gelled together at the end, and we agreed on five colours: Cobalt Blue, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, White and a little Bright Orange – because the roof tiles were a rich shade of this colour.

Didi got all of the card tiles cut to exactly the same size, and she was still painting each one with primer when I arrived that day. A fun morning was had by all as I demonstrated the paints and then let people have a go with palette knives, household filler for texture and imprinting texture using bubble wrap, string, sponges and other household items.

When we began the afternoon project we made a list of the outside features of the church – the spire, bell tower, ornamentation, roof lines, gargoyles, doors, stained glass windows, clock, porticos and even buttresses.

Unfortunately once we’d discussed all of this and given each person a specific feature to paint, the heavens opened and we spent a soggy few minutes outside, observing this magnificent church – most of which was looking up into raindrops. Many people had cameras so at least we had some reference material with which to work.

I was really impressed with the enthusiasm shown for this composite project and steered pairs of painters who were constructing the large stained glass window, the doorway and the spire. First attempts showed up a number of difficulties, mainly to do with mathematics rather than art, and they all learned that accurate measurements and a sense of scale for each feature were going to be paramount.

Some weeks later, Didi invited me back to see the finished work and to help her put it all together, ready for hanging in the church. When I saw what they had all achieved, I was absolutely delighted.

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