• Sue Firmin

St Ives review

I recently spent a week at the beautiful studios over looking the sea at St Ives School of Painting. We were working with under the tuition of Liz Hough, a very experienced and welcoming tutor. We had varying degrees of experience and were from all parts of the UK, including one student from Perth, Australia!

After welcoming us to the studio, we had a brain storming session discussing what 'abstraction' meant to us. Many ideas were , with suggested including, feelings, and breaking down formal elements added to our list.

Following this we went outside clutching A3 boards and paper, our stick of charcoal, a pencil, rubber etc to make a detailed drawing and a 5 line drawing of 3 different views of the Square. Conditions were wild and windy so we worked very quickly to return to the warm studio.

In the afternoon we made collages from our 5 line drawings using a restricted collection of papers, adding some paint as we worked into them, before starting work on small paintings made from these, using different tools to make interesting marks and textures from our early studies.

On our second day we went down to the beach, to make 2 drawings of 3 different scenes, the sea, sand, rocks or views inland, again working quickly as it was even windier, but we were lucky to have some sun shine giving shadows and illuminating the beautiful colours there.

Following our return to the studio and fortified with hot drinks and cake we painted some collage papers using a selection of the colours we noticed on the beach, some plain others using gestural marks or texture. In the afternoon we worked on A3 boards creating works based on our drawings, using some of our collage paper and adding 3 of many types of shapes, marks, textures following Liz's instructions. I found this really stimulating and exciting, probably the best exercise I've done for a while.

Our middle day was untutored, but Liz left us with a long list of suggestions to keep us busy. Generally we started to make paintings from all the work done so far, and visited the St Ives Tate to explore the exhibitions and the permanent display.

On Thursday we were given a choice of ideas, the concensus being to make some drawings using a collection of pots and bowls from the studio. Again, we were led by Liz to make selective drawings, some of them based on Morandi's work. This was followed up with collages/paintings from our preliminary drawings.

During the week we had many discussions on various aspects of creating art, talking about some of the examples Liz had put together, and thoughts about composition, so our last day was free to either complete any outstanding work or make new paintings from our drawings. The studio was silent as everyone settled down to make as much use as possible of our remaining time. It was a beautiful warm sunny day, a collection of us sat outside watching the passersby and the beach while enjoying the buzz of a beautiful seaside day.

Both of these last paintings have been worked on since my return, but I found it a stimulating and exciting 5 days. I would highly recommend both the School of Painting and Liz as a helpful and inspiring tutor. I will certainly use many of the ideas and experiences learnt here in the future. Hopefully this might encourage you to pay them a visit in the future!

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Sue Firmin

Contemporary Abstract Artist