Families discover their city's architecture through sketching workshops with an artist in residence. Jean McLeish reports
a recent arrival in Aberdeen, artist Will Teather is already like the Pied Piper with a crocodile of people following him through the city centre. The monsoons have taken an hour off and Will is leading them into the sunshine to sketch one of Aberdeen's historic landmarks.
Will is the first artist in residence at Aberdeen Arts Centre and this afternoon he's taking a sketching tour for families to visit some of the city's architectural highlights. Two dads have come with their daughters and there is a group of teenagers from local schools and one or two adults.
Nine-year-old Madeleine Kaye and her dad David are intent on their drawing, looking up to the towers of the 16th-century Provost Skene's House for inspiration. David's an oil industry engineer.
"This is probably the first time I have drawn anything for 10 or 15 years. I did art O-level and used to sketch as a student. It's a chance to have another go," says David.
Will is working on his own projects during his residency, as well as taking workshops with local people, encouraging their technical development and confidence. Children as young as seven are being invited to take part, and his two-month residency will culminate in an exhibition at Aber- deen Arts Centre, highlighting the results of these workshops on life drawing, portraiture, pastels and printing.
Fourth-year pupils Katie Ewen and Charlotte Stephen from Oldmachar Academy are collaborating today. Katie's sketching the outlines of the building and Charlotte's putting a tree in the foreground. "I'm thinking about art school," says Charlotte. "My favourite subject's actually cooking," Katie confesses.
Will is based in Norfolk and he is thinking about how this new city location will figure in his work. "I like Aberdeen, I think the things that strike me most about it are the Gothic architecture; the fact that everything is so elongated, everything seems to go up, it's all stretched in that sense," he says.
The gulls have also made an impact: "I think the gulls as well, because it's not a very obviously coastal city other than them. So they seem to me slightly out of place in a sense and also they are so over-sized. Everybody I have spoken to from Aberdeen has an opinion about them, but it ranges from saying they're beautiful to calling them flying rats," he adds, laughing.
As if on cue, the gulls begin shrieking above the sedate sketching group, who are oblivious to the seaside soundtrack. But Teather is talking Hitchcock and magical images no "wish you were here" postcards from Aberdeen from him.
He's also got strong opinions about art education and thinks pupils could be equipped with more skills earlier, by using more visiting experts in schools. Part of the problem, he believes, is that art now encompasses such a vast range of skills and disciplines.
"I think people need to be introduced to the range of art forms sooner. And I think there needs to be more of a focus on actually getting artists in who have skills in those art forms, to show people how to do it from a younger age. Then by the time they're adult, they won't still be doing very amateurish work, which is what happens on degrees a lot of the time, with people doing film and things like that," says Teather.
He graduated from Central St Martin's College of Art and Design in 2003, at the age of 27. And he says a large number of his contemporaries were studying subjects like film, sound art, and installation art yet hadn't studied any of these until undergraduate level.
"You don't get any film education and in a lot of courses you wouldn't even really be introduced to what conceptual art was, which does seem very strange. But at the same time, you don't necessarily learn a lot about painting techniques either.
"It's so general. I think it needs to be segmented more, so that people get proper grounding in all of these different disciplines," he adds.
He hopes today's exercise will prove useful for this group: "Working with architects is particularly good for perspective. And also working in public like this makes people less inhibited in some ways and less self-conscious about their work, which is one of the biggest problems most people have."
Work from the Aberdeenshire Schools Portrait Prize will also be on show at the residency exhibition at Aberdeen Arts Centre on August 18.
Further workshops information
T 01224 635208