Welcome to the website of Susan M. Coles, Artist & Arts, Creativity & Educational Consultant.

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I have always liked adventures, as a child my imagination sent me on many adventures. As an adult you sometimes have to chase the dreams to find yourself in unexpected situations and places. I enjoy travel, I enjoy being by myself in hotel rooms unencumbered by the usual trappings of being at home. I do need a kettle though and always have Twinings Earl Grey tea bags on hand! I travel light and I rarely unpack from the case because I like the room to be without a personality. I like to walk out into streets I know, but am equally happy in streets I don’t know, the urge to explore is strong and one great thing aboutw being an artist is that you really look. You look up, you look down, you look ahead. You see colours and textures and you watch how the sun and the light playfully create shadows on surfaces. At night your eyes will wander to the brightness of neon lights and the seductiveness of other people’s lives glimpsed through windows and doorways. I like sitting on a train. I think on a train. I have nothing to distract me apart from my digital devices which can stay switched off if need be. I like to watch the changing seasons through the train window as we weave our way through the British countryside. I like to watch my fellow passengers. I always travel in the quiet coach, so I know we fellow travellers have an immediate (if unexplained) connection. I’m more comfortable on a train than a plane, where I feel more trapped by the physicality of my location.

This September I flew to Lagos in Nigeria, to run an inset with arts educators. This city is the largest in Africa (17 million inhabitants) and you simply don’t see it. The roads are jam packed with cars and there are people everywhere. They are warm and friendly and genuinely interested in you. But, when here as a
business visitor, you are advised to stay in your hotel and not go out and wander on your own. That’s been quite strange for onewho loves to wander. But, maybe one day I can return and see more of the everyday life rather than the sanitised version in a plush hotel.

In mid October I will visit Vietnam, as part of a Big Draw initiative by the British School in Hanoi. I’m there at the invitation of the Principal and the art teacher Allison Cargill. Allison has planned a great week of activities focussed on The Big Draw and the event details can be seen at this online link;
She is determined to raise the profile of drawing and I am flattered to have been asked to play my part. I am going to see the city this time as we will go to various locations, and we are also going to spend the last weekend in Cambodia. I’m excited, open minded, curious and happy.

The Big Draw is important for me and I’m proud to be an Associate of The Big Draw. Early in September I ran a Big Draw CPD session for teachers at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. Despite it being on a Friday night we had over 60 participants (and had to say no to some late bookers) and it was a real mix of primary and secondary, plus the added sparkle of the trainee teachers who have just started the Northumbria University Art Craft and Design PGCE. They sparkled! As did everyone else.

I planned the session around individual, paired and group activities which explored the different meanings of drawing. We drew from observation, from memory, from imagination, to express emotions, to respond to music and ended the evening with small groups priding a machine (made from card boxes etc) which had to make a mark on paper and be connected to one part of the human body. This was really exciting, firstly to see the blank faces when the project was described, then to see the different ways that a groups worked (some went straight a into making, some talked, some scribbled down ideas) and then they just created. The final presentation, where they had to walk onto our hastily constructed “catwalk” and demonstrate their drawing machine was priceless. Appendages didn’t just hang from arms, they balanced on heads and on breasts (yes, you read that correctly) and the audience were so appreciative, not just of their own involvement, but of the creativity and humour seen in all of these group pieces. Baltic are always visionary in what they do for teachers, and it is the support of people like Vicky Sturrs (so well supported by Leanne Aldred ) who give me the chances to facilitate events like this. And if we have inspired those teachers and trainee teachers to go back to their schools and organise a Big Draw activity, they we have succeeded.

We also worked with Vicky and Leanne and Baltic artists on Saturday 4th October to facilitate a Big Draw session at Baltic. Trainee teachers, Baltic artists Alison and Lesley, TEA teachers, NSEAD members and NEATEN members all worked together to offer a range of family activities, drawing our dinner on a paper tablecloth, animations, fingerprint art, paper bag art, tree strutters using hands and arms, paper bag art- there was something for everyone and I think the 329 people who walked into the space all enjoyed themselves.

I have had a lovely week with chairing the Art Party Film event at Baltic last week too, and welcoming Bob and Roberta Smith to talk about his film. It was all organised by Breeze Creatives for the benefit of encouraging discussion. We had a great audience and a really good evening. Next day, a few hundred miles away, Bob and I were working together again as we talked about the value of art to trainee teachers at Goldsmiths as part of the Deptford X programme. Bob is a patron of NSEAD and is a brilliant advocate of the value of the subject in our schools and universities. We love Bob and Roberta Smith!

And, I am will be heading to London on October 6th, once again to take part in a very creative day at The British Museum. This day is built around the BM print collection, the book “The Drawn Word “ (edited by Stephen Farthing and Janet McKenzie), and other speakers – looking at links between drawing, literacy and communication. I will be chairing the event as well as contributing through sharing the story of Sketchbook Circle. More details here:

So, if you want to follow me as I travel then follow me on TWITTER @theartcriminal.


Mike Dolan

1355 days ago

What an interesting life. I hope you don’t end up deserting us in the UK though. Keep up the good work. We need people like yourself in art education. Wish we had strong networks like yours here in deepest Devon.

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