Thursday, 20 April 2017

In the spring of 1946......

together with my mother, for I was only 13, I waited to be interviewed by the Principal, William Johnston, distinguished head of Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. He was not the academic looking type we had expected for he closely resembled James Cagney, an impression further heightened by his New York accent. I discovered later he had spent some years in the U.S.A. rubbing shoulders with the cultural icons of that period. Flipping through my folder he seemed quite satisfied and offered me a place in the Junior Art Department.

Girl with an Ivy Headband £120.

The school itself was a fine building of red brick and Portland stone. It's exterior design owed much to the influence of Ruskin who lived nearby and was was partly responsible for it's presence.

The term 'Juniors' has caused much puzzlement in recent years. It was in fact a brilliant scheme begun in the 1940's to allow those pupils not academically gifted to develop skills in crafts such as pottery, silversmithing, bookbinding and commercial art. Having experienced an assortment of these classes, pupils at the age of 16 would then choose to specialize in the one which best suited their ability and temperament. This highly successful programe lasted until the mid 50's and produced many famous artists and designers, one ex-student conceived the image of the Dalek in BBC's Dr Who!

My weekly programe as a Junior was both varied and stimulating. It consisted of drawing one day a week from costume models (only after becoming 16 were pupils allowed to draw from nude models), one day of sculpture modelling in clay and casting in plaster. In this department Mrs Burns was the excellent teacher. One morning was spent under the tutor Gordon Scott (who lived to be 100, dying in 2017). He taught architecture styles most brilliantly, drawing Roman temples and Gothic cathedrals on a blackboard which we then had to copy. Midweek there was a break from studies with a physical training period held in an old scout house in the street opposite. Drawing from antique castles also occupied one morning, but for me the favourite class was illustration, firstly under John Minton, then Keith Vaughan and then for a longer and personally very influential period under the young teacher Susan Einzig. An older man called Mr Norbert taught anatomy and demonstrated the muscle positions by drawing on a model in red crayon. Two evening classes repeated more costume drawing and the other a most valuable session on period costume from Greek to Victorian styles.

Nude Study £95.

The courses were well designed to give a sound grounding in many related subjects, making available the skills necessary to enter commercial studios and other cultural related employment. The key emphasis throughout was to instill a skill in drawing and observation so necessary in all visual fields.

Seated Nude £95.

This is the background to my forthcoming exhibition (opening in May)....details below.....

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