I’ve had the pleasure of gaining the uniquely deep learning while working in an artist’s studio alongside an artist as an apprentice assistant myself. I did this for around 7 years, a while after I’d already graduated myself from the Slade, with a professional artist and contemporary master (who is also a professor at the Slade) in his private home studio and now I would like to pass this opportunity on with my own private studio. A virtual invitation to my studio practice online. Gayumars feels like a gentle, informal mentorship and I consider all and any of the participants as informal ‘mentees’ of sorts, more than students, meaning they are free to casually ask for any help or guidance ‘beyond the page’. I really love all my students and the committed ones know that I am equally committed and invested in these relationships. Apprenticeships have a long history. Being an Apprentice is something more real, something deeper. It is a commitment and deeply meaningful. By allowing an apprentice to just ‘be’ there, absorbing via osmosis in the air or in the ether, the presence of art and the artist is a sort of silent transmission that is one of the deepest and oldest forms of teaching and learning. This is a rare opportunity to gain this kind of insight into the mechanisms of the artistic process.
A chance to watch me not only paint live, but create live. Not recreate (as for The Court of Gayumars), but actually create from scratch. A chance to see the artistic process from its beginnings, and to gain insight, step-by-step, into the artistic mind and the manifestation of a creation coming alive from the inside out. I propose to create 2 long horizontal scrolls based on the 1001 Nights, in 2 different painting styles. Horizontal, because this format works well online, and you can see a section at a time. It also functions as a timeline, so each twist of the scroll reveals a new place to paint. The images will all flow into each other organically to make one large horizontal frieze that works as a complete painting and each session also works equally well as a standalone picture. Essentially making one long painting of the story of the 1001 Nights. I have already distilled the motifs of the 1001 Nights for my PhD research (over 200!) to paint. The motifs will be integrated into the painting as a whole. The order in which I paint can be flexible; if someone is particularly drawn to an item on the motif list I’ll try to accommodate it within my remit. The 1001 Nights are inclusive; there is probably a Night for everything in the known universe (almost).
(Those are not my hands.)
The 2 painting ‘languages’ are, firstly, of course, miniatures (the world that dreamt up the 1001 Nights also imagined, imaged and evolved the Indo-Persian miniature painting we know and love). Secondly, Chinese gongbi 工笔/工筆- ‘meticulous’ style painting. We can think of gongbi as one of the ‘source’ or ‘origin’ styles for miniature painting, since there was a definite crossover between the two styles and gongbi was already highly evolved by the time of the classical miniatures. I talk about this historic link in my regular miniature classes. You’ll see me working on the 2 scrolls side by side. So, treating the same subject in miniatures (1st half an hour), and then in gongbi style (2nd half an hour). This is interesting in itself as a comparative study. For example, ‘a golden tree’ in miniature style. Then ‘a golden tree’ in gongbi style. See the differences, note the similarities, appreciate the Silk Road. We’ll take exactly the same Art of Attention model of 1 hour per week, which I’ve discovered is a good amount of consistent time to work on a piece of this scale. You do nothing but watch and ask and talk, as an apprentice would. You don’t have to make anything alongside me (unless you want to). So you can spend the entire hour just intensely looking and thinking and thus learning and ingesting the art along with the popcorn and secret snacks I know some of you munch in class already ;-) (always allowed, I would do the same!) Be like a child apprentice, totally captivated by the process and immersed in it. I paint, you consume.
In order for you to truly see the whole thing from scratch, the first few sessions will be artistic process-planning sessions, and a bit of sketching and thinking. This is the private, inside stuff that the public don’t usually get to see and many artists don’t allow this at all anyway. When we get underway, I’ll have prepared images to draw, trace or transfer for each session and I’ll be working steadily through the scrolls according to the vision. I envisage the last sessions as hopping backwards and forwards through the scrolls doing touch-ups and finishing things and bringing the work together as a whole. It’ll be a mixture of planning and ‘winging-it’ spontaneity. Is there any other way to make art?
At the end, the paintings will be mounted into scrolls, and then turned into a print of each for you to keep. Open to all but please discuss with me first, as energy is very important and I am sharing my artistic studio and making process which is a bit like sharing an apartment with someone. We need to be good flatmates and it may not be suitable for complete beginners. Please email me with any questions.
I: will be painting 2 scrolls. 30 mins miniature style, 30 minutes gongbi style. Subject matter: 1001 Nights broadly; can incorporate anything within reason.
You: are a sponge.
Post-Gayumars: 1 hour per week online, Wednesdays 8-9pm. All recorded for catch up if missed. At the end, a print each for you.
Some motifs include:
Eggs, small and giant
Brass horseman automata
Doors of sandalwood and aloes wood
Magic mechanical ebony horse
Sindbad’s islands of wonder
Snake with human face
Half man half stone
Apples, pears, peaches, plums
(You know, I think Disney’s line style must in some way be influenced by traditional Eastern painting too!)