Skills Development - The expected and the unexpected
Going into the Scholarship, there are a range of skills one hopes and expects to develop. The opportunity to meet such a variety of craftspeople and all manner of professionals employed in the care of historic places instantly builds knowledge in a variety of areas, such as hands-on techniques, material and vernacular knowledge, confidence building, socialising… to name a few!
One key area in which I feel all SPAB Scholars and Fellows would hope to develop is in the ability to hand draw. Despite being ‘on the road’ for a mere five weeks, I think our shyness and hesitation to sketch has noticeably melted away. We are good at encouraging each other to draw all the time, and our group continuously carve out dedicated time in the day for sketching. We have also been helping each other with techniques to ‘loosen up’ our drawing styles, whilst also developing the ability to focus and pay attention to what we are seeing.
The SPAB strongly encourage sketching for its ability to really make one ‘see’ a building or place, rather than just ‘looking’. Personally, I am only just beginning to ‘train my eye’ in this way, but it’s something that I know we are all keen to develop. I also consider it fundamental to develop my sketchbooks as a repository of information - the notebooks will become a well of information I can draw from throughout my career. We’ll keep it up after this strong start!
I believe that the craftsperson’s tool is an extension of their hand - the tool lets one experience the material more fully, and extend one’s mind into the work. An intimate connection to the work is created through the tools used, enabling one to learn from and experience materials. So it is with sketching - as an extension of our hand, the pencil allows us to connect more fully with what we are drawing, and to really ‘see’ it, thus engaging our minds.
We were fortunate to meet Ptolemy Dean at Westminster Abbey during the first week of our programme. Ptolemy was generous with his time and knowledge. Over lunch, he shared his sketchbooks with us, giving a rousing presentation on the way he used this process to record the spirit of a place, or a particular detail. I feel it was very important that we met Ptolemy early on - he was engaging and encouraging, and his enthusiasm for sketching was infectious. I think we all came away inspired to sketch more, and will continue to develop this vital skill to truly ‘see’ a place.
Ptolemy Dean and other hosts have been very generous in sharing their sketchbooks with us. The sketch above is by artist and sculptor Rory Young.
It has been an additional advantage of the Scholarship that we have been given the opportunity to develop in surprising ways. In particular, I feel the public speaking course - undertaken at Spital Square during our second week - was an unexpected area for our personal development.
‘Resonance’ voice training company spent the day with Scholars and Fellows to work on our presentation, voice and confidence. I found the morning exercises particularly useful, when we developed several ways to ‘Relax, Release and Breathe’. The voice exercises were good fun, and I still find myself self-correcting after the ‘Posture and Presence’ work - wearing my ‘tail, cloak and crown’!
We were also given useful tips for preparing and delivering a presentation, which is something that will become very useful over the coming months. In particular, the focus on the ‘Intention’ of a presentation is key, as is the mantra ‘Know, Feel, Do’ - simple ways of writing and delivering a presentation to have more impact. For example, ‘feel’ means using emotive language and focusing on what you want your audience to feel.
In the remaining several months of the Scholarship, I hope to continue to develop in all these areas and more - both the anticipated and the unexpected skills!