I’d spotted this unusual art workshop for adults – ‘Drawing on anatomy’ – on the Hatton Art Gallery’s social media feeds, and had immediately signed up for it.
The gallery’s description of it was:
Expand your knowledge of anatomy by observing and sketching a live human body accompanied by anatomical teaching materials and the help of anatomists at Newcastle University Medical Schools and visual artist Rachael Allen. There will be the opportunity to experience anatomical body painting as a tool adopted by medical students to learn internal structures by means of using the skin as an external canvas.
Unfortunately, I arrived late (the bus service had been changed), so missed the first few poses, and they were into the last of the quickest poses by the time I’d sat down.
We then did a couple of 15-minute poses, the first with a skeleton (the live model was standing on the other side so wasn’t very visible to me). Two women came in whilst we were drawing to talk about the vertebrae.
Then we had a mostly legless and armless model alongside the live model. After about 5 minutes the two young women came in to take out the organs of the anatomical model and explain them as we drew.
After that, we were led up to the life room upstairs (it’s a nice life room, with light provided just by rooflights, not windows, and I wondered if it could be rather dark in winter), where the two young women proceeded to paint lines and areas in different colours to represent bones, muscles and main blood vessels onto the skin of the live model. I was very interested to hear that medical students do this these days to help them learn anatomy, and that they learn better using this proactive method. Whilst they painted, we drew the model. The painting one of them was doing is visible on her left leg in my drawing. Her arm on her other side was painted too. I included the women painting her too, as they moved around.
We finished with another drawing downstairs. This time, the skeleton mostly hid the live model from my view.
I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop. It was a fascinating and stimulating experience and I would love to have done it for longer. Rachael, who led it, was good at explaining, enthuiastic, energetic and encouraging.
It was also lovely to see Hazel again – the artist who (I think) usually leads the adult art workshops at the Hatton Gallery for Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums. When I attended these workshops for a while from autumn 2013 to Easter 2014, we did the basics of drawing in different ways and did some collage, and Hazel helped me to regain some confidence and eventually to start painting again. It’s good to go back to basics now and then.
I have always thought life drawing worth doing at intervals, and had thought that I needed to do more on anatomy (my own experience of arthritis makes me more interested in bones and joints as the years pass). I had not expected to have the opportunity of this sort of anatomy class and hope to have the opportunity again. There is much to learn (and it was recently reported that life drawing is very good for one’s brain!).