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Art for art's sake

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Roy Noble Roy Noble | 17:01 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

I haven't raised an artist's brush with intent for years. As I look up at the bookshelf in my study, there are books that underline a promise to myself that I will get back to it. They have titles like Painting In Watercolour, Painting With Oils... or acrylics... or pastels... and even one entitled The Complete Artist.

My past flirtation with art goes back to school days when it was one of my subjects at A level. I was reminded again of my interest last week, as I officially opened an art exhibition in St David's Church Hall in Fleur de Lys near Ystrad Mynach.

Art by Roy Noble

I was definitely a B-grade artist with C-grade aspirations. I include a couple of my attempts at sketching for your consideration. The course consisted of three elements: architecture, still life and composition - or landscape scenes if you like.

In the sixth form with me was Judith Williams, who lived in the shop on the corner near Amman Valley Grammar School. She was stupendous in art. What a natural talent. Although our teacher was Bryn Samways, of whom I had a very high regard, I also learnt a lot from Judith, especially in the use of light and shade to create solid forms. We worked mostly in powder paints but she could have taken on any medium with a delicate sweep of her brush and a sensuous flick of her blonde hair.

Art by Roy Noble

On making my move to higher education, I ended up in Cardiff Training College, being hell-bent on a teaching career. The college was a cell of Spartan sporting warriors. Physical Education was the main religion and the place was awash with young men walking about in green tack-suits. The air was permanently filled with the niff of winter-green or industrial strength liniment.

We, of the non PE wing, felt a wee bit intimidated. The fact that art was one of my main subjects, geography being the other, left me a little vulnerable in the macho pecking order. To add to my discomfort, I was the only boy in a class of 16. To be fair, I dug in, and was doing quite well until the entire class moved on to embroidery. That was it, I dropped art and replaced it with history.

Art by Roy Noble

Years later, on a teaching course, I tried art again. There was a choice of still life or life drawing. Rumour was on the road that the model in the still life class had been sent from heaven... or Playboy magazine.

Either way, the class was heavily over-subscribed. Just two had enlisted for the flower pots and fruit of the still life class, and 37 were queuing for Miss Cosmos in the life drawing group. In fact, we were so packed in that it was positively dangerous. You could have had your eye out from the pencil of the person sitting next to you.

Life, however, is full of troughs and pot-holes. As we sat, in anticipation, for the model to make her breath-catching appearance, the door finally opened... and in walked a green track-suit, inhabited by one of the PE students from my past college.

The air was a mixture of mass disappointment, hissed expletives and the familiar aroma of wintergreen. This time, history was not an option. My 2B Steadtler pencil and I were trapped.

Art by Roy Noble


Roy Noble is bringing his famous storytelling skills to a computer near you as part of the BBC First Click campaign - aimed at encouraging people to take their first steps to getting online. If you know somebody who needs help to get online, call the free BBC First Click advice line on 08000 150950.


  • Comment number 1.

    Greetings Comrade Noble,
    I like your artwork, it's a darned sight better than mine. Never a Rubens perhaps, but never mind. I am rather cagey about my prowess with a pencil; better with a keyboard perhaps. All is grist to my mill at the Kremlin.

  • Comment number 2.

    thought the" Roy Noble first click" show was great but if you want a real internet challenge try and get Rugby legend Barry John on line,he dosen't even own a mobile phone and is a complete Ludite


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