We were finally able to resume our physical meetings in September but our usual meeting place, Brentwood School, was not taking bookings owing to Covid, so it was necessary to find another venue. After a couple of weeks of searching we finally found a place that meets most of our requirements.
The Friends Meeting House in Shenfield hires out two rooms, a large room, which we use for our tutored sessions, and a smaller room for our life drawing sessions. The latter is self-contained and even has a private area for the model to change in. The lighting in the larger room was not ideal and we were concerned there would not be enough tables but the manager of the premises arranged for additional lighting to be installed and bought an extra two large tables for us to use. We are very grateful to Emerson Bedford for organizing all that.
Although there are no sinks in the rooms, there are basins in the ladies' and gents' toilets immediately next door to the large room. However, we do seem to be managing with buckets filled with water and placed in the rooms. There is a very well-equipped and spotlessly clean kitchen and facilities to make tea and coffee.
We do have to set up tables each time and there is of course, no artwork on the walls, which contributed to the art studio atmosphere in the rooms at Brentwood. However, Friends Meeting House is all on ground floor level, there is easy parking on site or immediately outside on the road and our meeting times are not restricted and impacted upon by school holidays, parents' evenings etc. There is free WiFi and a built-in screen for image and video displays. We did have to swap our meeting days around, so that life drawing is now on Mondays and the tutored sessions are on Thursdays but we haven't had any instances yet of people turning up on the wrong day. The place also has a rather cosy, intimate feel to it and given we may well have ended up with no meeting place at all, the Friends Meeting House has proved to be a blessing.
The first tutored sessions of the term were delivered by Dominic Kennedy and his theme was "The Edge of the Day". His introduction inculded images by other artists who have dealt with the colour and tonal interpretations of sunrises and sunsets, both figuratively and abstractly. Members used a wide range of approaches to tackle the subject, using different media and produced both finished work and studies that could be extended into more ambitious outcomes.
Christine Camp Debbie Sales Susanne Taylor