Saturday, 5 November 2011

Learning to draw and seeing Surbiton

To the shops on a nice autumn morning and decided to extend my outing as far as my wrecked hip would allow. So I went down to Maple Road and past its lovely plane trees, fine houses and a leafy Victorian Square till I heard organ music from St Andrew’s Church. St Andrews I've always thought as a forbidding dirty brick pile with Victorian ornament that’s trapped generations of soot. I’d never been in -- in fact had never noticed it was open.

I went inside: just a verger or functionary was there, busy, and the organist practising his Bach, nicely. I was very surprised by the building: I was in a huge light space with beautiful new oak pews, fine glass and spectacular brickwork -- the same as outside but clean. There had been a big restoration job, well done. The uncluttered floor invited movement and the seats sitting -- which I did for a listen and a look. A brochure explained it was 1870s and named the architect and stained glass artists, all unfamiliar to me but then they would be as I know little about Victorian churches. I looked around, at the story of Noah on the ceiling of a circular apse, at the brass plaques of commemorated and thanked Victorians and at the stained glass, for which you have to learn to ignore the thick black grid of window bars -- not difficult.

My main pleasures were in the vast, intricately textured volume of the building and the pictures, on the ceiling and in the stained glass. I'm strongly aware how experience of a few drawing classes, in which I'm the least competent student, has made me appreciate both the appearance of, particularly, people (I enjoyed sketching in the Royal Festival Hall concourse the other night) and the drawings of professionals. Going out through the porch I inspected a group of small stained glass windows at eye height. I could see they were essentially coloured drawings and admired the lines and the arrangements of shapes and spaces. No camera with me, sorry.

So everyone at school ought to be taught to draw properly. Perhaps they now are.

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