It’s not just the kids that aren’t at school…
Our Arty Lockdown by Howard Carlisle
My work ended abruptly on 16th March, and I can’t see it starting again this year, if ever. I used to run a large watercolour painting school for adult students – the students are mainly over 70, so that put an end to that.
We’re now five weeks into this isolation, and as I have a lung condition I decided not to venture out even for a walk. Luckily I’m not alone – I’m here with my wife. She is a driving force and now between us the house is fully painted outside, the driveway jet washed and the garden perfect. Without her none of this would have been done.
Prior to this mayhem my art classes would run five days a week, a total of seven classes, all held in various church halls. The student numbers varied from 12 to 18, some classes were serious arty types, and some just came for a fun social morning out. But whatever reason they came I had an agenda which consisted of a project which, like it or lump, it they had to attempt! I would give each person a worksheet that had a colour photograph and a write-up. I would also do a demonstration painting prior to them starting. At the end of the session they would submit their efforts for appraisal, they’d all sit around and I’d gently comment on the good and bad aspects of each painting. I would sometimes award a particularly good watercolour with a 10 out of 10 comment, which would meet with ooh’s and ahhh’s
My students have become family – everyone knows everyone, all are close friends, some have been coming to class for over thirty years. With this age group we do occasionally lose someone – this makes the Coronavirus more worrying, as all are vulnerable. I closed the classes early in the pandemic, mainly to protect them.
Luckily they are fairly tech savvy and most have either smart phones, tablets or laptops – although some of the latter may be steam driven! I have everyone’s mobile numbers so starting a WhatsApp art group was relatively easy. I prepare a project that still consists of a photo and write-up, I post it online, they paint it and post it on the group, then I comment on its attributes.
This has been popular but some became agitated by the amount of pings on their mobiles due to students chatting back and forth – a whole new version of talking in class… So to Plan B – start another group called Howard’s Social Group, problem solved. Now that new group chats away, they send each other photos, jokes and anything they want, leaving the first group free for just art.
However long this virus lasts we can all still keep in contact – but answering almost a hundred students’ posts is becoming my new full time job!
Howard Carlisle runs a watercolour school in Leeds, UK – http://howardcarlisle.tinkerr.io/. He lives in Yeadon with his wife – and has traced his ancestry back to 1623, still in Yeadon. The family didn’t travel much… They have two children – one stayed here, one went south. His working life started as a motor mechanic but in 1984, after redundancy, he changed his direction and became a professional artist and teacher.
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Stay safe. Stay sane. It’s not forever. We can do this.
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