Ways of seeing art workshops
25th-26th February Hosted by Shape Arts and Tate Modern
After the Symposium there was a weekend of workshops run by partially sighted artist, I was invited to attend these and write about them from a partially sighted persons perspective.
All four workshops were very varied, the first was a very expressive drawing workshop run by Rachel Gadsden, she has fantastic knowledge of the human body, its proportions and how it moves, Rachel has a natural ease when interacting with participants. She provided examples of artist work such as Kathe Kollwitz, who had a way of capturing movement and emotions in her figures.
Rachel moved in different positions through out the workshop so that participants could capture movement in their drawings, there was some great images produced.
The second workshop was a sensory session, run by Aaron Mcpeake, combining taste, touch, smell, emotion and audio description. Participants were asked to eat raisins or crisps, then draw what we were eating without looking, a lot of fun was had during this section. Aaron also encouraged us to write how the food made us feel, or what it reminded us of. Audio description was also used. There was some interesting results at the end of the workshop.
The third workshop was a drawing session run by Sally Booth, this workshop played on your senses. Sally asked everyone to pair up, sit with our backs to each other, one of us looking out the window describing what we could see, the other drawing what was being described to them. I loved this workshop, I enjoyed seeing how people dealt with the loss of control, some found it very difficult not to turn around and were wriggling around in their seats, everyone involved was very animated, you could see moments of frustration on both sides because one couldn't see and the other thought their description was clear and then there were moments of calm. Everyone who took part stuck with it and embraced the moment.
The fourth and last workshop was a sensory session, run by Liz Porter. Liz had a wonderful array of objects on a table, with questions next to them, one object was a wooden figure sculpture, the question was (write five words that describe me, what am I made of, if I could talk what would I say?) with our eyes closed we had to touch the objects, guess what you thought it was and answer the questions that were being read out to us.
There was some wonderful responses, two girls came up with a whole story for the two sculptures and named them but were also surprised when they guessed objects incorrectly, confusing a very flat textured bronze figure for a fish.
Two young boys gave brilliant audio descriptions and then went on to look at the Adam Reynolds memorial short listed art work on display and did audio description for this as well. They really understood that someone without vision was going to be able to gain an insight into the art work through their words.
There was a couple who spent ages with all the objects and handed them to each other, getting completely lost in the moment.
Blind people asked different questions about the objects, they were more interested in finding out about what colour the object were. I found it interesting watching and listening to people interacting with the objects.
All four workshops were very successful, I think as with everything things can always be improved upon.
I found Rachel's the hardest workshop to follow as a partially sighted person but I know that over all the people who attend loved it. Everyone stayed and produced great work. I think extra staff and some tactile materials in reserve for anyone who is struggling would be of benefit.
Aarons workshop worked on all levels for me, it was completely inclusive.
Sally's was fun, creative, educational, challenging and accessible.
Liz had the right balance of fun, education and creativity, it also appealed to all ages. Liz said that the only thing she would like to do differently would be to have the objects out of sight, so there was no way people saw them before they sat down and I agree with her but unfortunately this was not possible this time, so she improvised. Liz had a volunteer member of staff so that everyone got some one on one time.
I've left London feeling very positive about peoples response to the Ways of seeing art weekend and I have learnt so much. I have more knowledge about life for blind individuals, I still have so much more to learn.
I have shared my own knowledge as a partially sighted person with others and I hope with more events like this I will learn more as will others and by engaging people in a creative fun setting, rather then lecturing them on disability awareness I feel we will bridge the gaps.
By Fae Kilburn