Summer School - A Conversation with Jo Naden RBSA

12 July 2013

Jo Naden RBSA is running a Line: Aspects of Drawing workshop on Wednesday 21 August.

Here, she discuss the workshop and her current projects with one of our Volunteer Gallery Assistants, Becky Sexton.

‘Workshops are best designed not to be competitive - rather a space where we are free to develop our skills and insights, to grow our individual view as an artist. Workshops offer a way of working that is impossible to achieve alone’ says Jo Naden.

Can you tell us a bit about what you are working on at present?

The May /June months have been particularly busy. In the first instance I have been finishing a body of work for the RBSA Prize exhibition, where I have exhibited four small scaled sculptures that explore water forms. They are made with two new materials for me; Crystal Clear ™resin, and salt.  This month has also seen the conclusion of a drawing course I have facilitated at Uncllys Farm, Wyre Forest, in relation to Ruskin’s drawing principles. In addition I have been presenting work at the Winchcombe Arts Festival and have just returned from Oostende where I have given a presentation on The British Art Medal Society and Contemporary Art Practice at the Kunz Arts Academy, followed by a workshop. In Oostende I am also exhibiting photographic works derived from drawings as one of four artists from various corners of the globe; Brazil, Peru, Belgium and the UK. The works are in relation to the natural world.  The exhibition - Canto de la Memoria - opens in July. The next item on the agenda is to make five more Time Spent medals, as requested by the British Art Medal Society. 

Where did you learn your artistic practice?

Birmingham Polytechnic - or Margaret Street, as it is more fondly called - was where I developed my artistic practice – specialising in sculpture. Prior to this I had followed a teaching course at Bordsley College, my main subject being art, with drama as a subsidiary subject. There I met and was inspired by Tom Millard RBSA, Gareth Owen, playwright, and the philosophy tutor. I was hooked into developing this exciting way of looking at the world. After leaving Margaret Street, and with a passion for life drawing, I found myself attending life classes led by Cecil Collins, at Central School, London. These extraordinary sessions were a tremendous influence and I began to appreciate how much of his wisdom was drawn from the Sufi tradition of learning. Another vision of the world was later experienced through an approach inspired by Goethe, and subsequently developed by Rudolph Steiner: this process-led experience defines the world through subjective experience and objective analysis and is identified as Goethean Observation. As many of the painters within the RBSA will know, Goethe put forward an alternative theory of colour to the more usually accepted Newtonian Theory, which greatly inspired Turner, amongst others. More recently I have been dipping into Ruskin’s ideas and approaches to drawing and painting. Ruskin - like Goethe - advocated the study of the natural world.

Where do you gather your main source of inspiration?

My main inspiration comes from the natural world; being born into farming life was a great start, where the natural cycle of time was central to daily life. I always find it difficult to define one main source of inspiration as my eclectic interests can seem very diverse. However, I continually find myself returning to water and its formative qualities. I am fascinated by its fundamental nature and its place in the pantheon of earth, air and fire. Our myths and stories acknowledge and seek to understand the mysteries of interplay between these forces, and whilst the progress of science answers many questions, many more spring up. Life is so exciting.

Your workshop, Line: Aspects of Drawing will focus on developing skills in seeing and feeling through the pencil and ink. What are the advantages of these media?

Line: Aspects of Drawing? Well, line can be approached in various ways – for example I recall Richard Long walked a line when I was at college. However, in this workshop we will be thinking of line as a boundary in some instances, in addition to exploring with ink and brushes the pure quality of straight and curved lines. Finally we will bring the experiences together to respond to a specific subject. The workshop offers insight into the qualities of line, with new thoughts and approaches to put in the creative toolbox. I often relate drawing media to the qualities found in birds: with pencil we have a harder more controlled tool, like the beak of a bird, whereas the sable brush encourages us to be led by the flow and rhythms of a movement, more like flight, and the quill is somewhere in between. Different drawing media present us with opportunities to lead or to be led.     

What are the advantages of working in a group environment?

Meeting new people with a common interest in a different environment has obvious benefits and increases our points of personal reference.  Working creatively in a group environment, however, gives the additional advantage of being able to benefit from the energy of the group. Workshops are best designed not to be competitive - rather a space where we are free to develop our skills and insights, to grow our individual view as an artist. Workshops offer a way of working that is impossible to achieve alone.