Marina Renee Cemmick
Drawing Year 2020
BA Painting and Printmaking, Glasgow School of Art
I was 15 years old when I met a young student in a hotel, scribbling in his sketchbook. He told me he was studying at the Royal Drawing School. Since that encounter I’d had my heart set on studying here. Ten years later, coming to the end of The Drawing Year, it has been far more than I imagined.
Protecting Moss, The Body Clothed, charcoal on paper 84 x 60cm
Drawing is at the heart of my practice. Mostly it’s the figure that interests me, constructing narratives of human experience and interrogating the way that we inhabit our bodies and interact with the spaces around us. Before starting the course, I drew mostly from life, forming an understanding of how an object sits within space, their form and structure, how to capture a persons expression and movement. I studied a BA in painting at the Glasgow School of Art; a self directed course, studio based and conceptually led. While there was space for experimentation, I longed for space where I could learn new techniques, be within an environment driven by doing, that challenged my way of seeing. This is exactly what the School provides.
Searching for the Light, After T.S Elliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ , Oil on Canvas 120 x 90 cm
We are surrounded by artists, tutors and students who cherish and practice the act of drawing daily, and want to share their knowledge and experience. I’d fallen out of love with drawing somewhere, and somehow it had become futile to me. Here I was reminded how important and vital it is.
The school emphasises thinking through making; knowing that the answers will come through the act of drawing. It allows a space for your own interpretation and personal vision to flourish. When you’re drawing 7 - 10 hours a day, 4-5 days a week, you develop new ways of seeing what’s in front of you. It’s challenged everything I thought I knew about drawing, forcing me to see beyond the surface. It can be overwhelming to be confronted by different, sometimes conflicting approaches to drawing but you gradually decipher what is most useful to you.
I’ve learned that anything can be subject matter, whatever you’re looking at goes through a process of transformation. We discover our own language, translating from eyes to hand, and out onto the page. Often there is an immediacy, a pace, working in the life room, drawing absorbs your focus and thoughts are silenced. There is a beauty in the creativity it both forces and allows.
Drawing a Story challenged me to combine observation and imagination, working from the curated life room and literature. Often surprised by these drawings, I found confidence in using imagery the texts provoked, and have since developed more narrative works, from my own texts and poetry. Drawing at The National Gallery every week afforded time to dissect classical paintings with my pencil and interpret them through my own language. One of the tutors, Mark Cazalet, referred to the paintings as old friends, sharing his intimate, personal connection and rich historical knowledge of each. Expanding my awareness of art history, recent pieces inspired by Caravaggio, Velazquez and Robert Campin, have been developing in the studio.
Visiting exhibitions, galleries and often ending up in the pub together after class, we bonded quickly, becoming a supportive network for discussions and sharing knowledge. Coming from different avenues of art, with drawing as our common ground, it’s been inspiring to share the experience with motivated artists, each with their own unique language and vision. Since lockdown, we communicate and share work through our Instagram page, but the fragmentation has been challenging. It’s a relief to arrive at the studio, which have remained open throughout the year, to welcoming faces and the smell of paint. A haven among the chaos.
After the Covid-19 pandemic struck, all classes were quickly adapted for online, and our year extended by six months. The School has been continually supportive and communicative, maintaining a sense of community and insight into changes, to minimise the disruption where possible.
Interacting with diverse approaches, methods and ideas from practising artists, will stay with me, providing an example of what great teaching entails. I hope to share the things I have learned as a Trainee Tutor on the Young Artists Programme, provides weekly extracurricular drawing courses for 10-18year olds. The training has been thorough, informative and engaging, and I look forward to passing on the knowledge I have learnt over the past year.