Interview with Nicholas Addison, 8th October 2020

“Strangely, I remember the first night very well, because I was about to go to Spain with my mother on holiday and I had just had a typhoid injection. Halfway through the lesson I came down with a fever and I was shaking, but I think everybody thought I was overcome by the situation. And my father was called to collect me, but that wasn’t the reason–I wasn’t overcome by the situation.  So I continued [the classes] after that, without the shaking.”

“Chris was... very informal and very much of the old school–as is clear in his work itself–it was incredibly solid, of its kind. He was very good. It was always about shading, it was always a matter of looking at the light and line was used to see or emphasise particular forms and so on.”

“I suddenly remembered, talking about the sketchbook in fact, maybe that is one of the most important pedagogical things that he gave... I definitely then took up a sketchbook and certainly for about the next ten years after foundation kept a sketchbook solidly, which I’d take with me wherever I went. So I have quite a few sketchbooks from that time. I remember one of the first things we had to do on foundation was make our own sketchbook. I’ve still got mine and a lot of it is filled with life drawing.

One of the other things he asked us to do, I remember, was to actually go around into Canterbury and draw people walking and so on. So he was quite interested in trying to capture life, if you like, rather than the staged nature of the life room. He was quite keen–which is also apparent in his own work–to get people in action, everyday life.”

“Another aspect of my career was that at one point I became a sort of street portrait artist. And I think the way that I’d been taught by Chris to... I mean, there was something slightly performative about teachers in those days. So that when they would come round and see what you were doing and would only intervene occasionally and quite often it would be they would draw, not on your work, but make a drawing beside your drawing, on your paper. So I think for example, I was probably looking up at the model once and not getting the angles, not thinking about perspectives and so on, and drawing as if it was from the side rather than from underneath. And he would come along and he would make a drawing of the head so you could see how you could see under the chin and so on, and that was... They were very well observed pedagogical sketches.”

Nicholas Addison, “Sketchbook Pages from Foundation Course”, 1971-2

© The Christopher Alexander Archive 2020. All rights reserved.