Artist Fay Ballard is leading a weekly creative workshop with dialysis patients at Hammersmith Hospital. She is writing a weekly blog in response to her experiences.
Chantelle was fast asleep, presenting a dilemma: to wake her or not? She had asked to be woken, and I tapped gently on her shoulder and watched as she came to life. Smiling and drowsy, she did indeed need to sleep and could we paint next week. As I left, she returned to a deep slumber.
Michael was very tired from a restless night suffering from an acidic stomach and wakeful hours. We agreed he’d take a nap and wake later to resume the perspectival drawing exercises. ‘No, let’s do it now’, he exclaimed, ‘I’d like to draw!’ However, we couldn’t resist dissecting the general election first before settling down to work.
I pulled out a collection of postcard reproductions of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Velazquez, Cezanne, Hockney, Ghirlandaio, Bonnard, Van Gogh, Caravaggio and Roger van der Weyden: a roll call of great artists who’d employed perspective in different ways. We studied each picture exploring the reasons why and how the artist had used perspective, perhaps to suggest depth, movement, dynamism or to deliberately break with tradition or to lead our eye towards a figure in the composition, and to create a particular atmosphere or emotion in the painting. We deconstructed Leonardo’s 15th-century ‘The Annunciation’, and kept going until we had completed Hockney’s ‘Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians’ of 1965. Along the way, Michael took a great interest in the colours, brush marks and compositions, particularly entranced by a Bonnard and Van Gogh. I could understand why he might respond in this way, mindful of Michael’s love of colour, texture and mark making in his own watercolours.
Then we started. I handed Michael three small wooden blocks from my bag and he set them up on his table. He began quietly to search out the lines and angles, and created an accurate copy of the scene within a short period, using his eye to guide him without resorting to precise measurement and geometry.
He had grasped the rules and realised that there was nothing to stop him from drawing a still life composition. Yes, that wooden block could be a piece of cheese; a similar shape and the same principles would apply. As we cleared up, Michael said he’d like to draw a building next week.
Olive and John were sleeping but I’d managed to say a quick hello to them earlier. Before departing, I made my way to Irving to seek wisdom on the terrible atrocity at London Bridge last Saturday night. We had a profound and philosophical conversation before I headed home to chew over his thoughtful observations.