Drawing on inspiration

Features reporter Helen Johnston paints a Diamond Jubilee plate at Rufford Country Park.  Pictured with artist Sandy Bywater  (w120402-4a)
Features reporter Helen Johnston paints a Diamond Jubilee plate at Rufford Country Park. Pictured with artist Sandy Bywater (w120402-4a)

I SHOULD start by making it clear I’m no good at drawing.

My art teacher used to look on with a pained expression while I attempted to put pencil to paper.

So being invited to design my own commemorative Diamond Jubilee plate didn’t exactly have me rushing for the paintbrush.

Rufford Craft Centre, run by Notts county council, is holding family workshops every day until 13th April, giving people the chance to produce their own plate, mug and bunting.

I joined the first day’s activities and was presented with a blank plate by technical support assistant Dawn Taylor.

My mind went as empty as the canvas before me and the only idea I could come up with was a crown.

Luckily Dawn took pity on me and produced some finished products to give me inspiration.

I liked the look of one design, which had a crown on it. So, rather shamelessly, I set about copying it. Well we would have been there all day waiting for me to think of something original.

The first pencil mark was the hardest. I felt a surge of panic when I realised I wouldn’t be able to rub anything out, but as I got going I began to enjoy myself.

The crown looked quite like a crown I thought, squinting at it from different directions. Now for the Union flag...

I decided not to get hung up on the thin and thick lines thing and just went for the general look.

Barry Roe, of Gedling, who was there with his wife Jill and grandchildren Jenson and Lucy, looked over my shoulder.

“Why don’t you draw something on the flag to represent the different countries?” he suggested helpfully.

“Like a thistle for Scotland and a dragon for Wales.”

I explained that if I drew a thistle and a dragon, it was unlikely anybody would be able to tell the difference.

Jenson, 11, and Lucy, eight, were putting me to shame with their mugs, both featuring excellent Union flag designs.

But, gaining in confidence, I began to add little flourishes to the bunting round the outside of my plate.

Then I added the number 60, my own innovation.

Now for the paint pots.

With a shaky hand I turned my flag red, white and blue. My crown took on a golden hue, and my bunting began to flutter with stripes and polka dots. Then there it was, my own plate.

It was nowhere near as good as the one I’d copied. But then again it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared.

And the whole process had been therapeutic. Art is definitely good for the soul I decided.

I asked Sandy Bywater, one of Rufford’s artists, to cast a critical eye over it. “For a first effort I think you’ve done very well,” she said kindly.

Emily Asman, 12, of Newark, had painted a flag inside a giant eye on her plate. “I just love drawing eyes,” she explained. Her sister Evie, 11, had drawn a very detailed crown.

Nine-year-old Tara Alkattan, of Bracknell, was on holiday in Notts with her dad Mo. Her mug featured a flag in a heart shape with a crown on top. “It was quite difficult, but drawing is one of my favourite things,” she said.

My plate will be glazed and fired, along with everyone else’s, and then go on display in Rufford Gallery’s jubilee exhibition from 15th May to 10th June.

My art teacher would be horrified.

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