Interview: Rebecca Ivatts
Ahead of The Merit Club’s Life Drawing Masterclass with Rebecca Ivatts, Spain: The Journey of The Senses this Wednesday, 18th October, we wanted to find out a little bit more about Rebecca's fascinating journey. Like so many of us, Rebecca has had to face many crossroads, choosing between the pathways expected of her and her true passions. After being told “art was best kept as a hobby” by her teachers at school, she was talked out of going to art college and instead chose to pursue an academic path, going to Oxford University.
After graduating in Modern Languages, however, Rebecca could still not shift her obsession with drawing and colour that she had been carrying with her since a very early age. Turning art into her career had always been inevitable, and as Rebecca expresses, “There was no one defining moment of choice - I honestly believe it's so innate it's just something you can't repress.” As she recounts to us, “two degrees in Spanish later, I trained in objective life painting and drawing at the Slade and took drawing and anatomy classes with tutors from the Royal College and Princes Trust.”
Rebecca then took her passion for art overseas, living in Madrid for four years, where she gained a diploma in Painting Processes and Techniques at the San Fernando Arts Academy, and then returning to London where she now has her studio. For Rebecca, Spain and its vibrant culture has had such a special and insightful impact upon her work. There is no denying that gaining representation from three Spanish galleries set her on a professional path. Yet, far beyond igniting just her career, it's a place and culture that has fuelled so much sensory inspiration for her.
In light of this, we sat down with Rebecca and asked a couple of questions to find out what we can expect from our evening with her. An evening that will bring together a sensory combination of some of Spain's most renowned delights, pairing informative discussion of famous Spanish art and life drawing with the most delicious Spanish wines, tapas and music.
MC: We are fascinated by the time you spent in Spain and the influence it has had on your work! Can you tell us a little more about your time there and why it is so important to you?
RI: I feel that I have a natural affinity with Spain and the Spanish temperament. I am not a polite, restrained Brit, too feisty and passionate! I was so privileged, as alongside my studio practice I wrote about art for El Pais newspaper, reviewing shows at the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen. The work of El Greco, the black paintings of Goya and early Picasso are definitely works that resonate with me. I love the raw, dark quality in Spanish art; it truly excites me.
MC: It seems that Spain really is such an expressive place, and in so many ways. In light of this, do you feel that the senses have a particular impact upon your work and how do you connect to them?
RI: Art is a very sensual activity and naturally requires a sensitivity to everything we see, hear and feel. Sometimes I use music to accompany a mood I want to convey. For example Uri Caine's deconstruction of Bach's Goldberg variations I love - it's a new riff on the classical that I also aspire to myself...
MC: That’s so interesting - we can’t wait to find out more about how deconstruction and music has an influence on your work at our event! What about colour? Does that have any importance to your work?
RI: If I could only work in black, white and red I'd be happy. The former two to give form and structure, the latter to give emotional resonance. This is a palette I have definitely at some level inherited from certain Spanish artists: Goya, Picasso, and Saura and Villalba (as I'll demonstrate in my talk…!)
MC: What about mediums? Do you have any particular favourites?
RI: Funny I'm less bothered by mediums and more by ideas and subject matter. As Picasso once said, if he ended up in a prison cell he could draw with his saliva on the floor…!
MC: Haha inspiration is all around us! Talking of inspiration, do you feel there are particular times when you are feeling most creative?
RI: My process is intuitive, organic and chaotic. Moments of both clarity - a sense of flying - coupled with confusion and dissatisfaction with what I'm doing... Walking home from my studio is when, often, my creative thoughts chaotically and effortlessly float up from somewhere deeper and more unconscious. I love that...
MC: It’s so mesmerising to see, feel, and now hear about the emotional connection that you have to your work and that intensity from it. Art really can have such an impact on both the artists themselves, and the people around them. How important do you feel art and this creative expression is in society today?
RI: Very. It's got to be there to counterbalance all the intense consumerism. The happiness between buying a new pair of shoes and showing an artwork you're proud of bears no comparison.
MC: Well we are certainly looking forward to creating some works of art and sharing that happiness with you! We are so looking forward to your Merit Club masterclass. What can members expect from the evening?
RI: All that's required is a sense of fun and enquiry, and a focused eye and steady hand! … Of course a tasty tapa and tipple will finish the evening off beautifully!
MC: Is there a particular mindset or energy that people should bring with them to the class? What would you say to a complete beginner who is just starting out?
RI: When you're a beginner, it's an exciting time and the sky's the limit. If you're relaxed and enjoy the ride, progress can be so rapid.
MC: Are there specific techniques that you will you be teaching at the event, can you let us know a bit more about them?
RI: Learning to loosen up and quite literally look better. Some really helpful visual landmarks with the figure and tips on finding just a little visual poetry and making your drawing 'sing'. Hopefully those who come will be really encouraged to do more. Drawing is like a muscle that needs a regular work out!