My visitors today

Sunday 18 May 2014


'A place to draw'
Thinking about when the process of learning to draw began

After my sister had scrubbed down the bookcase in my newly decorated room I sorted through the books with the aim to take some to the charity shop, I think I took about 3 in the end). The books included those that I had been given from birth through my childhood many with inscriptions in the inside cover, and those, mostly non-fiction that I had bought at art school and during teacher training, all of them dated when bought. There were some school exercise and project books amongst them and also lots of packets with old photographs. 

It took me a long time to sort through the shelves as there were my illustrated poems to read (from the 1960s), my artistic descriptions of geographical features seen on field trips to be looked at ( from the 1970s) and many memories to be recalled and stories to be retold from photographs dating back to the 1800s.

Amongst these photographs I found some oversize slides. These slides were of my A Level Art pieces, A1 size works that where sent away to the Cambridge Examining Board be marked never to be seen again, yes, it was all burnt! Thousands of pieces of art work from budding artist destroyed because it was too expensive to send it back.

'Tree stump' by Susie Mallett 1974

Those were the days before digital cameras, there was still a year to go before I was surprised to find a slim-line, Boots instamatic camera in my Christmas stocking. So what were we to do? A fellow sixth-former and I were determined to have a record of our, to us very valuable, works of art so we persuaded my friend’s brother to do this. He hung them on the shed wall and snapped away. I think this is why there are shadows across the pictures although it could be deterioration of the quality of the slides, they are 40 years old!

We were determined to keep our pictures for prosperity, but my slides got put on the shelf were promptly forgotten and left there on the shelf for 40 years! Last week I took them to the photographer around the corner and this is what was printed.

I was overwhelmed by the prints when I first saw them. When I realised that I had prodused these drawings before I went to art school for four years so I had obviously learnt quite a lot at school, although I have always believed I learnt to draw at art school. I have more pictures at home from school days that I shall have to dig out, in another cupboard at the top of the house I discovered rolls of drawings from first-form through till fifth-form at grammar school that my Mum had saved for me to find one day.

  'Reflections' by Susie Mallett, 1974

While I was still in the photographers last week looking at the prints from the slides I suddenly remembered as if it was yesterday. Images filled my mind of sitting in the art room at school, for five hours at a time, to take the exams that produced these.

I loved my art lessons. I had four different art teachers during my A Level course all of whom were an inspiration to us all. There were only five pupils in my art group and each double lesson, of which there were several each week, we were taught by a different artist. Yes, all of our teachers were practicing artists who showed us their own work. There it certainly was not a case of those who can't, teach!

'Plate with cutlery' by Susie Mallett 1974

I loved the long exams even more than the lessons. We were given exam subjects before hand and were allowed to prepare sketches on the chosen theme, then on the given day we would sit in silence in the art room to draw or paint for a whole school day – what bliss. 

'Rubbish' by Susie Mallett, 1974

I remember the teacher who built the still-life with the dustbin and boxes. He asked us how we wanted them all placed. I remembered that as I drew I was almost tempted to add the tail of a mouse disappearing behind one of the boxes.

Prints of these pictures now hang in my hall and already one of my friends has asked for copies of two of them.

I think it is time to start drawing again.

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