Episode 40 – Whistler and Nature at Laing Art Gallery

For this week’s episode we were kindly invited along to the Laing Art Gallery to check out their newest exhibition, ‘Whistler and Nature’, which looks at the works of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (who we’ve affectionately nicknamed ‘Jam’). He spent most of his life in Europe and captured it through striking etchings, prints and paintings.

You can listen to this episode on SpotifyiTunesGoogle and Soundcloud!

More information about the exhibition: here.

Location: Laing Art Gallery

Opening times: Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 – 17:00, Sunday 14:00 – 17:00

Further Thoughts: The Naked Portrait and Life Drawing

This week, myself and Alice discussed our experiences at ‘The Naked Portrait’ currently at the Laing. We would really recommend giving it a visit using the discount on their Facebook page!) and if you haven’t heard our thoughts you can give it a listen here.

In its exploration of the difference between ‘naked’ and ‘nude’ the exhibition included some examples of life drawing that I found to be truly mesmerising. During all of my education I was never given the opportunity to try life drawing (absolutely shocking for an art student) and so this is something I chose to pursue after I had graduated. I love the act of studying the human form and feel it has improved my observation skills and my decisive mark making, i.e the ability to make a bold mark on a page with confidence.

Even more importantly, my weekly life drawing classes are like therapy. For 3 hours a week I sit in a room and think only about the model and the paper in front of me. I liken the experience to meditation.

I feel this is something that anyone who enjoys drawing should try! whether you identify as an artist or not, life drawing can help you build an arsenal of skills that you will use beyond drawing the human form. Its also fun to spend some time in the presence of nudity without sexual connotations that are now common place in society today – something which can be a little strange at first but that I now find quite liberating.

As always, I would like to take this opportunity to reinforce the idea that there are no rights or wrongs in art – and life drawing is no exception! Even if you are in a room full of other people drawing the same subject, a prospect that can be quite intimidating, what you see will be different to everyone else. Your artistic eye and style will shine through in whatever you do, but more literally your viewpoint of the sitter will be slightly different and therefore so will your artwork. If you find yourself in a class will many other artists it can be very inspiring to see what everyone else produces and see how they have managed to capture the model from their vantage point.

I enjoy using colour to abstract my work. I also find something highly satisfying about ‘half finished’ pieces in which some sections of the body are highly detailed and others are left as an outline:

Soft Pastel

How to find the life drawing class that works for you:

There are a few options out there so all you need to do is consider the price, frequency, time, style and travel/distance evolved. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can sign up to courses that last multiple weeks or sessions that run on a week-by-week basis. to save you some googling I have compiled a few examples that may be appealing to you. But remember, there are plenty more out there (for example if you are part of a university the arts society may run life drawing classes).

Cobalt Studios:
If you’re after a low-key life drawing experience, Cobalt Studios might be the one for you! Each evening promises to offer a slightly different experience but good music and art is a garment. This is a self lead experience with no teacher, but feel free to reach out to your classmates for advice and feedback! You will need to bring your own materials and sketchbook but boards and paper is provided.
http://www.cobaltstudios.co.uk/event/lifedrawing-tickets-247259

Local Council Adult Learning:
Local councils have an obligation to make sure that all of their citizens have access to learning opportunities and usually have a selection of courses available. Legally they must provide at least Maths and English level 2, but many also offer leisure courses (depending on the local council in question). Since graduating university I have completed courses in ceramics, creative writing and life drawing all of which were offered by my local council’s adult learning programme. I feel it is vitally important to use these services while they are here as, with government cuts to both education and the arts, they may not be around for much longer! By enrolling on these courses we are proving that they are valued and important and give the council a reason to keep them running! There are often discounts available too which are worth checking out!
Below I have included the websites to some local council websites so that you can have a look at the prospectuses and spy any arts courses that you may be interested in.
North Tyneside: https://my.northtyneside.gov.uk/category/225/finding-right-course
Newcastle: http://www.newcastlecitylearning.ac.uk/
Sunderland: https://www.sunderland.gov.uk/article/12113/Libraries-museums-events
Middlesbrough: http://www.mcls.ac.uk/art.html

Newcastle Arts Centre:
Newcastle Arts Centre host a variety of different art classes. Their life drawing workshop spans over 4 days and all of the materials are provided. All abilities are welcome and the classes appear to be very structured, so if this is the work environment you could benefit from go check it out!
https://www.newcastle-arts-centre.co.uk/product/life-drawing-2019/

The Lit & Phil:
The Lit & Phil is an independent library in Newcastle, housing over 170,000 books, making it the largest independent outside of London. However this institution is so much more than a library; it is also a historic building, a meeting place, office, theatre, lecture hall, jazz venue, performance space and, a classroom! Classes, including life drawing are offered here so check out their website to see how you can get involved. As the Lit & Phil is independent this could be an amazing way to support one of Newcastle’s coolest venues and learning institutions.
http://www.litandphil.org.uk/whats-on/2018/apr/life-drawing/

…………

When signing up for life drawing, try not to worry too much about finding a course that is specifically for ‘beginners’ (or the level that you feel you are at), as life drawing is something that even the most experienced art master would need to practice throughout their art career. I would however suggest that if you have never done life drawing before that you choose a course that has a tutor as they will be able to provide you with some art theory and techniques to get you started.

These are just a few examples of the numorous classes that are out there!

I hope this helps you in your search for art classes or perhaps even inspires you to consider taking one if you hadn’t considered it before.

-Rosie Stronach

Episode 31 – The Naked Portrait at the Laing

This week the girls went on down to the Laing Art Gallery to catch the amazing ‘The Naked Portrait’ before it closes in March. It explores what it means to be ‘naked’ and how that can be represented across a huge range of mediums and styles.

You can get 20% off of the entry ticket on Wednesdays and Thursdays during February by following this link. Alternatively just check out the Laing’s Facebook page and find the offer.

(Don’t forget, we’re also in iTunes)

Find out more information about the exhibition: here.

Exhibition runs until 3rd March.

Location: Laing Art Gallery

Opening Times: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 – 17:00, Sunday 14:00 – 17:00.

(Poetry shout out: You Have to Glow to Grow; Spilling the ink from my heart https://growingandglowing104424909.wordpress.com/ )

All About hu: Impressions of the Hungarian Touring Exhibition

Hey guys, Amy here. It’s been a little while since I’ve shown my face (more like voice, or words) to this podcast, but trust me, I’m still around! It’s been a busy time but you should be getting a little more content from me, whether you like it or not.

So by now you must have listened to the latest episode of Hey Art, What’s Good? In it, myself, Alice and Rosie went along to the Abject Gallery to check out the hu exhibition. We were invited by one of the organisers, Andras Nagy-Sandor, to see the works of five Hungarian artists living and practicing in the UK.

This exhibition focuses on what’s lost or gained in each translation of the artist’s work. Before taking it to Newcastle, hu showed in Dundee. After Newcastle, it will go on to show in London, and it’s designed to change in response to each gallery it comes to.

When you walk into the room, the first things you see is a striking object by artist Zsofia Jakab. This is what first looks like an old spinning wheel but upon closer inspection looks more like an insect. It has insect-like legs and the wool it’s spinning looks more like cobwebs. Jakab came to Dundee from Budapest to study art and was inspired by university workshops to move her practice towards sculpture.


Next to this piece and dotted around the room were the works of Zsofia Schweger. Her paintings of interiors show that while her environment has changed, interiors stay the same. Her paintings look very aesthetically pleasing with pastel colours and perfect symmetry. I personally feel that they offer a sense of nostalgia as they make me think of old Pokemon games too. I also find these paintings very calming to look at. After studying abroad myself (in Hungary actually!) I found that the big change in environments could be overwhelming at times. But going back to familiar places such as a bedroom or library could offer me some solace.


One of the most noticeable pieces in the room was that of Petra Szeman. At the back of the room was a TV and headphones showing her moving image piece. Szeman is from Budapest and now lives in Tsukuba, Japan. Her moving image piece features an anime character that is both herself, and a character that looks like her.  It mixes anime and video game styles with real-life photographs and videos. Instead of a voice over or speech, she uses video-game style typed speech. She goes through a day visiting landmarks around her Japanese city and reflects on her time there. It’s an enthralling piece of art to watch and I can’t say I’ve seen work like this before, so it definitely left an impression.


These are only a few of the pieces we saw at the hu exhibition at the Abject Gallery. There were of course many more amazing pieces of artwork on display that I didn’t get around to discussing. Whether you catch their Newcastle show or make it to their London show, go see them yourself!

We also have a bunch of other blog posts for you to read, so go check them out here.

-Amy Smith