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Jerry Tyrrell

Slides and Critique: 19 April 2002

(Notes by Sam Dauncey)

Jerry Tyrrell offered us a feast of pictures, slides, comment and advice. He incorporated the critique into the body of the talk, using our paintings to reinforce some of his points. Here are my notes.

"What is art?"

Jerry's rectangular lump of wood, cut out of the corner of the under-frame of an old table, complete with mortise joints, was convincingly talked up into being "art" (if properly presented);
A couple of pebbles from the beach, carefully selected and skilfully juxtaposed, can make a very pleasant, quite Henry Moore-ish, mother and child (an actual art student project);
Some twisted bits of wire wrapped in paper on the kitchen table, sealed, sprayed with silver car cellulose and polished with black shoe polish produced a very presentable sculpture.

Moral?
The question "What is Art?" is much harder to answer than "What is an Artist?".
Read Prof. E H Gombrich's "History of Art".

"How to improve?"

Jerry spent some time on a famous Frimley Green sculptor, Sir W Hamo Thorneycroft (1850-1925), who meticulously researched the background of his subjects (see his "Oliver Cromwell" at the Houses of Parliament, for example). Stanley Spenser's work shows how much you can get out of your well-known local area. Jerry feels it's much more valuable to study (including copying) acknowledged masters than to compare your work with other "art society" artists'.

Go for integrity. Be you representational or abstract, look for the essence of the thing you are trying to represent (light, space, shadows, lines, shapes - including negative ones) rather than churning out a pretty picture using mechanical tricks. Study the subject. Work bigger (super-life-size sculptures? 8ft x 4ft paintings?). Do lots of sketches (we've heard that one before) - not only does it help you to see but you build up a "resource bank" for reference in the studio (essential for waves and other moving things). Don't miss the gorgeous reflections and lighting effects you get if you paint in the rain or snow. Look how shadows define the shape of the surface. For still-lifes, make sure you have good point-source lighting (you need your own local light on Friday evenings).

Jerry, as a sculptor, was keen on portraits - we had offered only a couple. People are afraid but the sitter's characteristic stance and one or two facial features are all you need to get a convincing likeness (but you won't get those from just one or two photographs). Sitters? One is free, always available and as patient as you are - the great artists did very many self-portraits. Include some one-minute sketches (no time to look at the paper). Get hold of a copy of the National Portrait Gallery's CD-ROM "Woodward Portrait Explorer"

How about "Self-portraits" as the subject for next year's competition? If that's too scary, how about "People"?

Thank-you, Jerry.

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