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More years ago than I care to count, when I was doing an art foundation course at Hull Art College, I fell in love with life drawing. I had always liked to draw people, hence the decision to follow my (he)art  and improve my skills. The opportunity to draw someone who would happily hold a pose for an hour or more without any embarrassment was a revelation to me. Our usual model was a no-nonsense young woman who would cycle to college through the busy city with just her dress on, rush in late, fling her clothes into a corner, and model for us all morning. We were a mixed bunch of 17/18 year olds, and the various reactions to this were hilarious. I loved it – and I still have some of the drawings I did back then somewhere. I’ll have a look and see if I can find them for you…..

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On a foundation course the aim is to give students a taste of all the different disciplines and avenues that they can follow in art. Usually this is broken into a few weeks concentrating on each subject, and we tried our hands at graphic design, photography, three-dimensional work and ‘Fine Art’ (there were probably other subjects, but as I said, this was a long time ago!). I had really been looking forward to Fine Art – that’s what I dreamed of doing; being an Artist and painting proper Paintings.

I had a shock though. This was the 70’s, and the thinking at the time was to encourage ‘self-expression’ rather than teach traditional skills and techniques. I was presented with a big white canvas, oil paints and brushes, given a rudimentary explanation and then left to it. No instruction, no model, no still life, nothing. I painted an imaginary scene in shades of sticky mud and hated everything about it. I don’t remember what happened for the rest of my ‘Fine Art segment – I think that I just went back to drawing the model.

Later, when it came to choosing an art college to graduate to, I searched the UK for a course that would actually teach me traditional skills. None of the Fine Art courses appealed to me, as they all seemed to be following the same ‘self-expression’ abstract approach, and I decided to study Illustration at Harrow. What a happy choice! I didn’t particularly want to be an Illustrator but I knew that the college was famous for the standard of pure drawing its students achieved.

The experience on my foundation course taught me that we all need to have a good solid knowledge of our chosen path before we can start to express ourselves with any confidence or personal style. No one would expect to write a novel without starting with the alphabet, rules of grammar, language etc, no one would think they could compose an symphony without knowledge of music or the instruments involved. Why should we expect to draw or paint any better than we did as children without learning the basics?

About Jeni Caruana

Jeni was born in England and studied at Uxbridge, Hull and Harrow Art Colleges before settling in Malta in 1977. She subsequently worked as a graphic designer and followed a post-Diploma course at Malta College of Art. Jeni has held regular solo exhibitions of her works and participated in numerous joint, group and collective exhibitions in Malta and abroad, representing Malta in UK, USA, Sardinia, Rome, Tunisia, Libya and Norway. Paintings now hang in many public and private collections. --- Works cover a wide variety of subjects and media, from landscapes to Prehistoric Temples, sand to ceramics, watercolour and acrylics to wooden sculptures. They are always based on good drawing and keen observation and always started on location or from live models. Intense study of the human figure has resulted in her ability to capture fleeting glimpses of people in motion. Visually expressing the emotional effects of music on the senses, her ‘musician’ paintings are a favourite subject. --- Jeni has been teaching drawing and watercolour techniques to adults since 1995. She regularly runs courses and workshops in drawing and watercolour for adult beginners and improvers, specialised courses in life drawing, watercolour techniques, weekend workshops and painting outings and also art for self-expression, meditation and relaxation. --- For more information please contact; Studio Address: - “Dar Il-Mistrieh”, - 15, Old Church Street, - Manikata - MLH 5202