Contribution by Simon Broom
Working away on a portrait I am reminded of those invaluable classes I took with you Ben and the various “lightbulb” moments. There is nothing worse than struggling with a painting, knowing you’re making mistakes and you don’t know why! Tuition is vital. Each generation of masters handing the discipline down to the apprentice and so on. How could it work any other way? Which makes it all the more surprising that art colleges and state schools in Europe don’t do it anymore.
As a young art student in London back in the 70s I was accepted into one of the top London Schools – Goldsmith’s College. I recall telling them I wanted to master figurative drawing and painting, I wanted to draw and paint like the masters! My tutors were amused by this and actively discouraged any formal training, in fact, I was told to “just express myself” I had and still have nothing against abstract art but it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. So, I changed courses and became a graphic designer. When, some 40 years later I walked into your class I remember by first coffee break thinking:
“This is what they were supposed to be teaching me at Goldsmith’s!”
A few months ago I was talking to a young art student studying in London who was experiencing exactly the same dilemma. He came all the way from China to study at a London art college but spends most of his time paying for lessons provided by a professional atelier. At college they told him:
“Express your feelings, don’t worry about technique!”
It seems nothing has moved on. But I wonder if Picasso could have shortcut his way straight to Cubism or if Matisse could have skipped the drawing lessons and just “done Impressionism”?
A poet need an understanding of vocabulary and grammar and visual artists need their tools too.
So, if you want to “just express yourself” go to art college – you may even get a masters degree to put after your name but if you really want to learn to paint and draw well, be an apprentice and take some lessons.