Rokeby Museum Distance Drawing Course — Week 3: Mistakes

Courtney Clinton

WEEK 1   |    WEEK 2   |    WEEK 3   |    WEEK 4   |    WEEK 5

Inspired by Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919) and taught by Courtney Clinton, Rokeby Artist in Residence

Dear Student,

Courtney Clinton, Rokeby Artist in Residence here. For the past couple months, I have been exploring the Rokeby Museum collection with Allison Gregory, Education and Interpretation Fellow. The project centres around the letters from a 19th century correspondence drawing course that former Rokeby resident, Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919), took as a young teenager. Each week we share part of Rachael’s story and a drawing lesson!

Part of our mission with this project is to share a historic perspective on the contemporary issue of remote learning. While the letter format of Rachael’s course may seem different to the current Zoom model, this 19th century example is packed with relevant insights for parents and educators navigating remote learning during the pandemic.  

A major challenge to remote educators is giving mindful student assessments. In a classroom, teachers can gauge a student’s reaction. In a distance scenario, the student has to take on and manage their response to criticism. So how do we better prepare students to take on feedback? 

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Rokeby Museum Distance Drawing Course — Week 2: Copying

Courtney Clinton

WEEK 1   |    WEEK 2   |    WEEK 3   |    WEEK 4   |    WEEK 5

Inspired by Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919) and taught by Courtney Clinton, Rokeby Artist in Residence

Dear Student,

Courtney Clinton, Rokeby Museum Artist in Residence, here, writing to share my ongoing research and a new drawing exercise!

Since our last letter, Allison Gregory, Education and Interpretation Fellow, and I have been busy going through the museum’s archive looking for images and correspondence. Our research centres around the original letters (dated 1891–1893) from a correspondence drawing course that one of the Robinson daughters, Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919), took as an adolescent.

Because I’m in Montreal, Canada, and can’t visit the museum, Allison acts as my eyes and ears on the ground. In a lot of ways our research process mimics the form of Rachael’s drawing correspondence course; Allison and I have never met in person, but through our correspondence we’ve built a friendship.

Another new friend is Rachael. Obviously it’s impossible for me and Rachael to meet (barring Tesla launching a solar-powered time travel machine!) but I’ve been getting to know Rachael by studying her art. For this week’s exercise, I am going to show you how to study art by making a master copy!

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Rokeby Pie and Ice Cream Social News

Donna Fraser-Leary at the Rokeby Pie & Ice Cream Social in 2009

by Donna Fraser-Leary, Rokeby Museum Volunteer

Has the mention of pie and ice cream in Rokeby’s backyard got you pining for a taste? Sadly, you will have to wait until next summer, when Rokeby hopes to hold this classic event again, in the true spirit of a “Social.” Alternative ideas were considered, but the personal back-yard experience, which has been an integral part, would not have been possible this summer. We hope you will join us again for this perennial favorite in the summer of 2021.

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From Vigil to Protest: Where Next?

Honour Their Names Protest; Montpelier, VT, June 7, 2020

by Mary Holland, Rokeby Museum Trustee

At Rokeby Museum we have embarked on the challenge of adding advocacy for social and racial justice to our mission. In light of renewed efforts to disrupt and dispel white supremacy after the murder of George Floyd, I have been thinking about what this means. Much of my reading has been helpful, but nothing so much as the words of Bettina Love in an interview just over a year ago.

A professor of education at the University of Georgia, Dr. Love’s writing, research, teaching, and activism meet at the intersection of race, education, abolition. In a 2019 interview (see excerpt below), she responded to a question about the role of whites in the movement by drawing a compelling distinction between allies and co-conspirators. Allies, she said, read the books, go to the meetings, attend rallies, know the rhetoric, provide financial and moral support. They are important, but they are not co-conspirators. Co-conspirators, she argued, do something more—they put themselves and their privilege on the line. They use their whiteness and spend their capitol.

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Rokeby Museum Distance Drawing Course — Week 1: Vision

Courtney Clinton

WEEK 1   |    WEEK 2   |    WEEK 3   |    WEEK 4   |    WEEK 5

Inspired by Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919) and taught by Courtney Clinton, Rokeby Artist in Residence

Dear Student,

My name is Courtney Clinton, I am a Montreal-based artist whose practice focuses on art history and drawing. This summer, I am the artist in residence at Rokeby Museum.

In fall 2019, I visited the Rokeby Museum as part of the Contemporary Art at Rokeby Artist Lab organized by curator Ric Kasini Kadour. In the museum’s archive of the family’s letters and artifacts, I discovered the original letters (dated 1891–1893) from a correspondence drawing course that one of the daughters, Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919), took as an adolescent. 

Rachael was part of four generations of Robinsons that made Rokeby their home. Rachael would eventually move to New York to study at the Art Students League and go on to be an important book illustrator — an esteemed position for artists of the day. In 1914, Rachael designed and published a series of watercolour postcards, Art Lover’s New York. This work garnered her national acclaim and is now part of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., collection. 

Catherine Brooks, the Rokeby Director, and I agreed that exploring this correspondence course now, during the COVID-19 crisis, is a way to start a timely conversation around remote education. Despite the American-Canadian border closure, the museum is generously making their archives available to me through a digital collaboration between myself and Rokeby’s Education and Interpretation Fellow, Allison Gregory. 

Each week I will share with you an exercise from the 1890s drawing course and together we will work through it using pictures demonstrating the lesson and written steps. We will also explore Rokeby’s collection of Rachael’s drawings and paintings, and talk about her journey to become a recognized 20th century illustrator. My collaboration with the Rokeby Museum, and this adventure with you, presents an opportunity to test and expand upon the possibilities of remote learning and remote collaboration. So let’s get started!

Note: As you work your way through this course, share your work! Be sure to tag @clinton.courtney and @rokebymuseum on Instagram and use the hashtags #RokebyDistanceDrawing and #DrawingWithRachael. Got a question for Courtney? Let us know in the comment section below!

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