Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The NEAC Discussion Panel 2008

NEAC Discussion Panel - Can you teach art or drawing?
(L to R) Alex Fowler, Francis Bowyer, Charles Williams and William Packer
8" x 11", pencil and coloured pencils in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Last week, the New English Art Club arranged a Discussion Panel at its Annual Exhibition in the Mall Galleries - on the topic of "Can you teach drawing or painting?"

I'd drawn the panel at the discussion at last year's exhibition and wanted to do the same again so made sure I got there in good time and had a good view. Nobody on the Panel sat still of course so the sketch was completed in snatched moments as people settled for short periods - and I was darting back and forth between people all the time I sketched.

I find that the most difficult thing when sketching people like this is trying to guess which is the 'comfy' pose - the one an individual will always return to whenever they move.

I should have posted about the discussion last week as, although interesting, I can't now remember some of the points made in the debate. I do remember there was a long discussion about the various models of teaching drawing and painting which have been used over time - in particular comparing how people were taught themselves in the past and how they have to teach now - within whatever context.

Having qualified as a teacher myself in the dim and distant past, I do remember thinking I was less interested in how drawing and painting can be taught and more interested in how people learn to draw and paint in an effective manner (ie going beyond achieving a likeness).

In my view, in order for teaching to be effective the approach used does need to be based in an understanding of how people learn at different stages of their development as an artist. Sometimes you need to learn how to do and sometimes you need to be left to get on with trying to find what you can do with what you've learned. It did strike me me that maybe some of the approaches employed over time haven't always factored in how learning works - and that some approaches will have too structured and constrained for some and too vague and loose for others. I guess the question is a good one - even if it's not always easy to answer!

Note: NEAC has a Drawing School called, unsurprisingly, the New English School of Drawing. The information on the website is somewhat out of date but does provide a contact email for latest courses.



  1. I'd love to have heard this discussion. Being self taught I wonder if I'd see and draw differently if I'd had more tuition. I wonder too about the gap between what one is taught and what one actually sees - is it possible to teach people to 'see' or can teachers only guide until the artist, hopefully, sees for themselves.

  2. This is an interesting topic and I'm sure a debate about how to teach that can continue for ever. How would coaching differ from teaching?
    A great sketch, difficult to do so many people in the same setting like you've done here and you've pulled it it all together.


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