Notes from teaching sculpture using a life model at Art in Action Festival, Oxford

The Art in Action festival takes place each year in the grounds of Waterperry House and Gardens in Oxford. Based on the idea that people are generally curious about artists and what they do*, Art in Action invites around 400 demonstrating artists, teachers, performers and musicians to openly demonstrate their skills and discuss their work.

The Art Academy demonstrate each summer there, and take a selection of students and teachers to run classes. This summer I was one a the few that taught how to model a portrait head out of clay using a life model as reference.

I was daunted – it was my first real teaching experience – but excited and determined to pass on all I had learnt during the two years at the Art Academy!

I condensed down class planning notes (running to 4 or 5 sides of A4) down to one side of bullet points and then finally, fitting it all onto a 6 x 4 card with timings that I could whip out of a back pocket if I needed to!

It was a great experience; teaching groups of 10 people from age 7 to 70+ with all levels of experience. Everyone who took the 90 minute classes ended up with a head they were pleased with, and seemed to enjoy the process as well!

As the classes were run in an open tent, there were plenty of people who stopped to watch and then went on to sign up to take part which was great.

When we weren’t teaching we were working with our own model (who happened to be wearing a jumper the same colour as my plasticine!) painting, drawing or sculpting.

On the last day we got to wander around and check out the other artists and their work. I loved seeing how Helen Murgatroyd made jigs and tools that enabled her to create small scale mass-production prints. They seemed like pieces of art in themselves!

*see also the great BBC series, What do artists do all day?

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