Howard Hodgkin Absent Friends at the National Portrait Gallery

Figurative Portrait

 

Howard Hodgkin; Absent Friends

National Portrait Gallery

23rd March-18th June

Yesterday I went to the Howard Hodgkin portrait exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It would not be my show of choice but a dear friend absolutely loves his work and wanted to take a couple of us to see his work.

She was right to bring us; it was so lovely to go to an exhibition, which was just about colour and feeling. A disregard for representation and shapes and why not? If the colours and patterns of shapes work together and balance, which with Hodgkin they do, then the abstraction is rather refreshing and liberating.

This portrait of Peter Cochrane is the most figurative. I love the bold colour and patterns!

by (Gordon) Howard Eliot Hodgkin, oil on canvas, 1962
Howard Hodgkin, oil on canvas, 1962

 

Most shows zoom through an artist’s life chronologically or within subject matter. Here the show started with one of his later pieces and most abstract. It really helped put the rhythm of the subsequent paintings within a context: Seeing the end to understand the beginning. In his painting Absent Friends, is the title ironic or is it even prosaic of me to think that?

Absent Friends

During the war as a young boy, Hodgkin was an evacuee to New York City thereby having the opportunity to visit MOMA and be in a city not focused and devastated by war. This must have been a huge influence. What sort of an artist he would have been if he’d been an evacuee to Wales like my father?

On returning to England he studied at Camberwell under the tutelage of Coldstream. I love Coldstream’s paintings, not least because I was lucky enough that my dining hall at school was hung with Coldstream paintings, (apparently he partly paid the school fees with paintings).

So as with NYC and Wales… I wonder how my artwork would have differed if it had been Hodgkin’s paintings informing every mealtime rather than Coldstream.

With all of Coldstream’s measuring and observation, what they would have thought of each other.

Reclining woman

 

After Camberwell, Hodgkin went to study in Bath where the tutors were much more open to his ideas. Ironically the examples the NPG showed of his time in bath were his most figurative, some of the most wonderful and powerful portrait drawings in Pencil from around 1953, with a strong use of line and mass. I’m sure Coldtream with all his meticulousness and measuring gave Hodgkin a thorough grounding, to help the leap into abstraction.

Drawings

His philosophy on the abstraction from the figurative portrait is equally applied to his use and deconstruction of the frames. It is very playful.

To choose a favourite would be difficult, though the one that sticks in my mind is probably one of the most figurative. I just found the character leaning over very enchanting and the colours so refreshing. Perhaps it is its figurative nature that makes it memorable to me.

Figurative Portrait

 

If the paintings are about a response to people and memory, I would ask if he either has a very rich visual memory, or are his paintings an emotional response to the memory? – two very different things, and in my mind, the latter easier to access.

I wonder what was going on in his mind? Was he being playful or utterly sincere? I do hope a little playful, as this would give the work some freshness and would take away the pretense of some of the written word!

If you do go and see the exhibition it is a wonderful tour de force in colour and colour combinations, in patterns and juxtaposition of shapes.

Girl in Bed

Tim’s talk on the American Illustrators

An example of one of his characterful illustrations

Tim Daost has been studying with us for some years. He has received both the De Laszlo Scholarship and was awarded Artist in Residence at Leighton House Museum. We have been fortunate that he has given a series of lectures at the studios on perspective and most recently on the American Illustrators. Here is a brief synopsis of his fascinating talk.

 

One of the main reasons I wanted to study traditional drawing and painting techniques was to improve my ability to tell stories visually.   I have always loved the way a good illustration can transport you to another world, and admire artists who can use realism in imaginative ways.

 

Although slightly less famous in the UK, the American Illustrator Norman Rockwell has long been considered a master of visual storytelling by the US public.

Norman Rockwell

 

The more I practiced traditional figure drawing the more I wondered how Rockwell and his contemporaries became such amazing figurative artists and illustrators.  I decided to explore this topic more in a talk I gave at the studio in November 2016.

A large part of the story of American Illustration comes back to the Art Students League in New York City.   Every time I found an illustration from the early 20th century with amazing figurative work and researched the artist’s background I discovered that they spent some time at the Art Students League or in Paris at Academie Julian.

 

Arts Students League

Researching a bit about the training at the Art Students League around the 1900s explains how its students became so influential.  At the time the League had three incredibly influential teachers:  George Bridgman, Robert Henri, and Frank Dumond.  All three of these teachers had trained at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts or Academie Julian, some directly under the tutelage of France’s foremost academic artist, William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

 

Here are a few images of students training at the Art Students League – the setup should seem familiar to anyone who studies here at London Fine Art Studios.

 

 

 

Frank Vincent Dumont in Class

One of the longest standing teachers at the Art Students League, George Bridgman, wrote some of the most influential books on figure drawing that are still in wide use today and can be bought at the studio shop Lavender Hill Colours. Here you can see examples of the work from his class.

From a George Bridgeman class
From a George Bridgeman class

 

Robert Henri, another instructor at the League, wrote the highly influential book The Art Spirit.

Robert Henri Art Spirit

Frank Dumond, who exhibited at the Paris Salon and won a medal, can be seen in the photos above teaching cast drawing.

 

Frank Dumond

 

 

It is no surprise that instructors of this calibre were able to turn Norman Rockwell into one of America’s best illustrators by the time he was 20. Rockwell matured as an illustrator at a very fortuitous time, since the technical circumstances of the time made illustration the dominant form of advertisement.

 

 

During the 19th century lithography, photography, and printing were making it possible to mass produce black and white images cheaply.  Colour printing was a more complicated process, but by 1904 rotary offset lithography made it possible to mass produce colour images.  Although colour printing was possible, colour photography was still a challenging process until 1935 when Kodak introduced Kodachrome film.  This meant that mass produced colour advertisements required an illustrator from the early 1900s until about 1935.

 

This opportunity was taken up by many other Art Students League students:  Walter Biggs and Howard Pile were all former students at the forefront of American Illustration.

 

Illustrators from outside the League were also popular; a little research tends to reveal that they also had an academic background.  J.C Leyendecker was America’s leading illustrator before Rockwell.  He studied under John Vanderpool, the Dutch-American artist and author of the book “The Human Figure” which is still widely used in art schools today. Leyendecker continued his studies at Academie Julian in Paris.

 

Leyendecker’s images for Saturday Evening Post defined the modern look of Santa (often mis-attributed to a subsequent Coca-Cola campaign that clearly references these images), and his work for Arrow Shirts advertising helped define the fashion sense of the 1920s.

Leyendecker

N.C Wyeth is also considered one of America’s greatest illustrators.  He trained under Howard Pyle, who was in turn trained by F.A Van der Wellen from the Antwerp Academy of the Arts.  It is hard to find exact details on how Pyle was trained, but it is clear the Van der Wellen had his students draw from casts.  Pyle also briefly trained at the Art Students League, and it is reasonable to surmise that Pyle trained Wyeth using the classical techniques that he learned from the league and Van der Wellen.

N C Wyeth

Wyeth completed an incredible 3,000 paintings (an average of 6 per month during his working career)  and illustrated 112 books (2 -3 per year)  during his career.  Maintaining such a pace would require spending no more than 25 – 35 hours per painting.

New de Laszlo Foundation Scholars announced

De Laszlo Scholarship | London Fine Art Studios

We are grateful to The de Laszlo Foundation for their continued support of the school.  Now in its third year, the scholarship programme has enabled many talented young artists to further their training and build their confidence, successfully making the transition into the professional realm.

We are pleased to announce two new scholars for the Autumn Term and look forward to witnessing their development as artists:

 

oolong-with-roses
Oolong with Roses by Nneka Uzoigwe

Charcoal Portrait by Tim Daoust

timdaoust_charcoal

 

Back to school

Art Courses in London

The Autumn Term begins 19 September.  We look forward to welcoming back old and new faces.

Few Foundation spaces left, additional courses include:

Beginners Sculpture, Mondays, 7-9pm

Printmaking, Wednesdays, 1-4pm

Urban Landscapes, Saturdays 10am-1pm

Apply online here or for more information email: info@londonfineartstudios.com.  Want to find out more?  Watch this short video about the school.

London Fine Art Studios: An insight

London Fine Art Studios: An insight

London Fine Art Studios: An insight This is us!  We have been busy working with acapmedia to produce a wonderful video about the school.  Thanks to Chris and Aaron of acapmedia for all their work and expertise.  Thanks also to the team at LFAS for their participation.

Check us out here:

[pexyoutube pex_attr_src=”https://youtu.be/NBoCL1gGuiw”][/pexyoutube]

We look forward to the release of a second short film produced with acapmedia.  Also with the support of The de Laszlo Foundation.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts (Aristotle)

portrait steps alla prima oil painting course

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts (Aristotle)

 

Today London Fine Art Studios celebrates a fabulous first year! Three terms of cast drawing, of oil painting, of nudes and portraits have flown by and we are enjoying a buoyant start to the summer courses. To mark the occasion and show that artists can party as hard as they work, we will be found picnic-ing and generally making merry in Battersea Park.

 

Highlights from the year have included an inaugural lecture from Simon Schama at Leighton House Museum; a talk by Alison Smith, Curator at Tate Britain; workshops and artists-in-residence at Dulwich Picture Gallery; filming with ACAPmedia; Griselda Murray Brown, FT Arts Editor, speaking about the synaesthesia of music and art; and so much more!

 

However, most exciting has been the expanding programme of classes to include Advanced Cast drawing, Printmaking & Etching, extended Sculpture schedules and new workshops with international artists. We are still looking forward to Henry Yan’s arrival in September.

 

And yet, though we be young in years, we are rich in experience. As with the Welsh football team, LFAS is greater that the sum of its parts: Ann Witheridge, Founder and Director, brings years of teaching, drawing, painting, exhibiting to bear on her leadership and vision for the Studios; our teachers are also established artists, represented nationally and internationally with creative projects a-plenty under their belts; our art store stocks the best materials from around the globe, offered at affordable prices to our students with a generous lashing of expert advice from Director Scott Pohlschmidt.

 

Then there are the students, hungry to learn, of all ages and backgrounds, with enriching life experiences of their own. The best will draw on the support of their peers as well as the knowledge of their teachers to further their craft; they will make the most of the lectures, partnerships and events that the Studios organise to help further their professional development.

 

Thus, the staff, the students and even the spaces (imagine artist’s paraphernalia and worn wooden floors) provide a unique and enormously productive learning environment.   Add to this a method that has lasted centuries, classical techniques handed down from one European Master to another. Newcomers begin with the Foundation Course, they learn the fundamentals and train their eye to see afresh, they learn what Aristotle knew: the delicate interplay of parts and whole, never fixating on the detail, always stepping away from the easel to see the bigger picture.

 

All this amounts to a carefully considered and honed training for amateur and professional artists, for part-timers and full timers alike. One that is supportive yet challenging, consolidated through tradition and wholly contemporary.

 

I would like to say how much I enjoyed my term at LFAS. The staff is amazing, welcoming, and all around wonderful, the store far too tempting, Chris’ tea some of the best in London, and the general atmosphere inspiring, lovely, and motivating. And as frustrating as it sometimes was (is) to learn a new way of doing something you think you already know how to do, the technique taught as LFAS is exciting, engaging, and expansive. I feel so fortunate to have found LFAS. Many thanks to all of you who make it work so very well.

 

Testimonial of LFAS Student

July Courses at LFAS

Introducing our award-winning artist and barista... Painting by Archie Wardlaw

LFAS’ much anticipated July Courses are two weeks away and very few spaces left!

4 weeks of 5-day intensives each focussing on a different discipline:

Foundation: 4-8 July, £350

Figure: 11 – 15 July, £385

Printmaking: 11-15 July, £350

Portrait: 18 – 22 July, £385

Landscape or Sculpture: 25 – 29 July, £350 (Sculpture £400)

Single weeks as priced; 2 weeks £700; 3 weeks, £1000; 4 weeks, £1200.

Full details here, to apply email info@londonfineartstudios.com

Classical skills that go hand-in-hand

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 11.49.14

This week started with, amongst other things, a conversation on the news about media bartering. A grosso modo it referenced the way in which large organisations are cutting marketing costs through in-kind exchange.

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 16.24.30

Swapping goods and services for promotional opportunity or something similar is hardly a new concept, and it is certainly prevalent amongst many arts organisations. Indeed, it is at the heart of how many communities operate.

 

London Fine Art Studios is testament to this tradition. A Battersea-based, independent fine art school, the Studios is in essence an atelier offering classical art courses for aspiring and established artists. This encompasses drawing and oil painting, printmaking and sculpture, all from within a representational art lineage.

 

In keeping with the atelier methodology, much importance is placed on learning through exchange. We barter knowledge and experience, in exchange artists, teachers and students alike learn more, enjoy more and ultimately retain more. Small student groups work together, receiving focused and constructive critiques from their tutor-artist who draws and paints alongside them. They also gain from regular demonstrations as well as through observing their peers.

 

Underlying this process is a deep respect for the craft of drawing and painting. Again, there is a shared understanding that mastery comes through practice. It is the result of concrete instruction as opposed to conceptual or theoretical training, which, all too often, leaves students floundering, trying to run before they can walk.

 

This collaborative ethos runs through everything we do, and that is a lot! In a previous life one of our award-winning artists was also an award-winning barista (painted left), he now runs the Studios’ coffee bar supplementing his income whilst giving us (and our work) a welcome caffeine kick. We have yoga teachers and chefs, all of whom find a way of trading goods to everyone’s advantage!

 

It has also propelled LFAS and its artists well beyond the confines of the studios, working alongside a range of organisations across London. Projects with Poet in the City and Central School of Ballet have helped forge new working relationships between different art forms. In the case of Leighton House Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery we have brought practical expertise to the seat of art history; and, different again, popping up at the Affordable Art Fair and Pintar Rapido we have brought classical principles into a contemporary context.

 

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 11.49.14Whatever we choose to call it – bartering, collaboration, in-kind exchange – this age old tradition has enabled us all to gain at so many different levels. Evidently it brings with it exposure and so the opportunity of increased following and, more importantly, new creative adventures. More significantly, it allows the participants to grow professionally as they try their skills out in new arenas and push the boundaries of their craft.

 

Finally, in a world that is notoriously cash-strapped and solitary, it has consolidated ties between artists and individuals and meant that we all get more bang for our buck.