This work is the product of a week long course in life painting at the Trinity Arts Workshop. Our tutor for the workshop was Fergus Byrne.
I’d never taken a class in painting before although I had attended life drawing classes very sporadically several years prior. It was a daunting proposition. Absolute beginner territory and all kinds of difficulties presented themselves all intensified by my performance anxiety/dyspraxic tendencies that always accompany any learning that involves any degree of complex manual handling. For me painting comes under that category.
Painting from life involves new curious and complex interconnections between my brain and my body. The assimilation of a multitude of new arrangements; being able to see the subject, holding the brushes, standing on the best side of the easel to get the best view using my dominant hand which is my left one. The effort of getting to grips with all that threw me and my system into a frenzy which was exacerbated by the familiar sense that I was alone in struggling with them.
Expressing the challenges I found very difficult this increased the anxiety. Instead I did my usual. Much knocking about and fumbling with the paraphernalia while muttering to myself. This is how I normally cope in such situations.
The teacher was very helpful. Quietly each student’s set up was assessed to ensure that each of us were working in the most comfortable position. His manner was also helpful. He was confident in his ability to address the issues which gave me the space to have my particular difficulties and to let him observe me and see where the difficulties were arising.
I felt entitled to go at my own pace to explore the situation. To find my place in relation to all the objects and facets involved in this new process.
Getting to grips with the material was another challenge I felt somewhat intimidated as I think I was the least experienced painter in the class.
Again I felt secure enough to express my need to practice first before joining in with the class who had set to work on the nude tableau on large prepared canvases.
The week was intense I felt as if I was in constant battle with myself. My concentration was fierce and I could physically feel my brain making new synaptic connections. It was definitely one of the most rewarding learning experiences of my adult life.
On the last day I felt a sense of a breakthrough. Something had shifted and the process felt enjoyable. The effort and struggle yielded a little magic in the eleventh hour. The week of learning was a deeply enriching occasion. During that weeklong class I endured a brutal confrontation with myself and came up smiling.