Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cindy Woods - learning daily (1956-2008)

Cindy Woods died yesterday afternoon.

I'm so very glad to hear that she was painfree and had a good last week. I know she will have been surrounded and supported by the love of many people. I know very many bloggers around the world will have been thinking about her since she announced that her battle with oral cancer had been lost. I know many of us shed a tear this week - first, when we found out about her last journey but also when we read the many messages of support, friendship and love on her blog.

There are a lot of people who knew Cindy much better than I did. However, one of Cindy's real talents was about being able to have a meaningful relationship, at a distance, with a lot of very different people and I was one of them. I rather think there will be a few people having a post about Cindy on their blogs this weekend and today I'd just like to say a little about the Cin I knew.

When I started thinking about setting up a blog three years ago, Learning Daily was one of the first ones I found that I liked - a lot. Her blog was a whole 14 months older than mine and was very much one I used as a virtual 'mentor' when I started blogging. What I liked was her simple and direct style - she always drew from life or memory and she drew her own life, the people in her life and what she saw on her travels.

What I also really appreciated was the generosity of her blogroll. She had so many wonderful links to really good blogs and emerging blogs which she was supporting. I think I found many of the people I read today through Cindy's blogroll.

So when I set up my blog, I linked to her blog straight away and got an email from Cin (as I came to know her) straight away - thanking me for the link and saying
I love peeking in other artist's sketchbooks and very much enjoyed looking at all of your sketches, you have a wonderful scribbly line and use it so beautifully to create tonal values and forms. I seem to see mostly in outlines and contours and whenever I see work like yours it is a bit of a revelation, it is a way of rendering I would like to explore and understand better.
Well! What a start to comments for somebody new to blogging! Yet, I've found out this week that I was very far from being alone in receiving kind comments from Cin. For me, that email was the start of our sporadic but very enjoyable email correspondence about drawing which has continued for very nearly three years.

I think we both tried extra hard with our comments on each other's blogs - but then I have a distinct feeling that's probably a view shared by very many others - again, back to Cindy's talent for making connections and being supportive. I had huge regard for the fact that Cindy would very often comment positively on my drawings when they were the ones that I was personally most pleased with - even when I didn't say! Judging by her comments and the links she sent me I think she had a really excellent 'eye'.

We both shared a love of 'finding out' and certainly 'learning daily' and passing on 'good links'! She would send me a note about new blogs that she'd found and that she thought would interest me. I responded in kind by sending her notes about websites, blogs and exhibitions that I knew she would like. I learned from Cin the value of highlighting the blogs of people committed to drawing and sketching - and those who were making promising starts. In a way, she was responsible for planting the seed of "who's made a mark this week?" in my head.

Cindy's drawings always had an apparently simple and casual line - seemingly effortless but incredibly difficult to do - hence I think why we both liked David Hockney's drawings. We certainly both shared a mutual enthusiasm for learning more about how he drew . I found his website first and she and I then devoured its contents with our eyes. We told each other about the exhibitions we'd both seen - it's so great to get the story of what it's really like behind the newspaper articles. Then we both enjoyed The Big Hockney Sketchbook DVD Hunt together. Tracking that DVD down took some doing but we both eventually got our copies! Our mutual searches for 'good links' reinforced a notion I had of how art education can be advanced by creating information sites about artists so that people had a 'jumping off place' for learning more about them - and the Hockney one was one of the first I created for artists I liked.

Like Hockney, we also both enjoy drawing people from life and drawing drawers. It would have been a real delight for me to have met Cindy and had a portrait party face to face! Sadly, that's now not possible. Today - in memory of Cin - I'd like to share with you all some drawings which only Cin has seen before and which, if she's around and about, she might like to see again. They're studies I made as I tried to find out how Hockney draws. The greatest learning exercise - apart from drawing from life - is to try and reproduce how other people draw. I learned a lot about how both Hockney and Cindy drew with these studies - and it looks a lot simpler than it is!

Learning together - studies after David Hockney (Freud, Isherwood and Auden)
Originals copyright David Hockney; Studies copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Cindy loved sketching trips - as do I. I know I always used to watch out for her return from one of her trips away as this always heralded an explosion of wonderful sketches from the places she'd been and the things she'd been doing. I know I delighted in including links to many of her trips on my sketchbook blog and will continue to do so (please don't let her Flickr account lapse!). Here are some of those links to her travel sketchbook collection on Flickr - including
At the moment, I have a mental picture of Cin now sitting at the controls of a new machine for gadding about on sketching trips anywhere she likes at the speed of Google Earth!

I thought Cin had the most fantastic send-off this last week in terms of the messages she received on her blog and elsewhere. These are the links to the posts on Cindy's blog Learning Daily in the last week - make sure to read the comments....
In the last post Ronda highlighted Cindy's legacy. Personally, I think it goes far beyond her sketchbooks, her blog and her flickr site. It's about the real inspiration Cindy has been in showing us all how to continue in adversity, the value of drawing from life, how to find inspiration in what we see around us and how to seek out and support learning for everybody every which way right up to the very end of our lives. That certainly is a huge legacy.

I know I'm going to be going back and rereading Cindy's blog - and looking again and again at her drawings - and I hope you do too.


  1. Thank you, Katherine. It is hard to write what is in our hearts at such
    a sad time. Someone wrote(maybe Jessamyn West?) that a shock "needs silence in which to absorb it." So I thank you for sharing what Cindy Woods meant to you and to many of us. She seems to have had that gift for understanding, not only where we were coming from but also where we were trying to get as artists(and as beginners, too shy to claim that we were artists, at all ). I will
    certainly keep visiting her sites.
    Annie Fortenberry

  2. Cindy certainly had some pretty rare and wonderful gifts.

    I needed the silence when I found out. I couldn't say anything at all on Wednesday.

    I wasn't much better on Thursday

    I wanted to be able to say something before she passed on as Julie was able to do but still couldn't find the words....

    They only came after I heard that she had died. I guess I come from a clan that tends to talk themselves silly immediately after a death - trying to make sense of it.

    I guess we all find a way which works for us.


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