Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Students Studio

I have eventually found the time to start writing a blog. I thought the best way to begin would be to post some articles I wrote previously to set the tone...

The following articles was published in the UK best-selling art magazine, Artists and Illustrators in June of last year...

There comes a time in every person’s life where you are faced with the challenging question what should I do now? Having reached the end of my final year at Duncan of Jordanstone Art School I faced that very question. The options seemed endless – start a “proper” job; enroll in a Masters Course; take the obligatory 21st century gap year or pursue a career in the art world.

As Henry Moore says “There’s no retirement for an artist, it’s your way of living so there’s no end to it”. Although at the ripe old age of 21 I was hardly thinking about retirement I did feel that Henry Moore had hit the nail on the head. That is exactly how I felt. There was no decision to be made – I had to find a way of developing my painting technique.

I arranged to go to New York and investigate the possibility of studying at the New York School of Art. While there my friend, the artist, Ian Scott suggested contacting the world renowned artist Odd Nerdrum to see if he would consider allowing me to become one of his elite group of students. Odd has created an international community in Norway with painters from all over the world coming together to study with their master.

Four months later I opened my email account to discover a reply offering me the opportunity to study alongside the great master at his Norwegian home for a year. I couldn’t believe my luck and I was also extremely honoured to discover that I am the first Scottish painter to have ever been chosen.

Although this was a fantastic opportunity as every struggling artist knows funding is always a problem. Thanks to the Elizabeth Greenshield Foundation this became less of an issue as they awarded me a grant, which enabled me to live and travel to Norway, where the cost of living is extremely high. Fortunately Odd’s offer included free accommodation and studio space along with access to a vehicle, which is extremely generous.

From the moment I arrived in Norway Odd and his family made me feel extremely welcome. The feeling within the community is one of a big family with Odd as the father figure and the students his children. All of the students share similar ideologies towards painting, making this experience a stimulating progression from the art school environment. Everyone helps each other with the development of their individual practice.

Evenings are spent talking about paintings, with the emphasis on work of the Old Masters. My previous experience of such work was limited. There are also philosophy evenings once a week where the students read philosophical text and act out Odd’s plays. As well as being a painter, he is also a very talented writer. Odd has published a number of books and during my stay I was involved in the editing of collection of six short stories entitled “How We Cheat Each Other.”

During my stay in Norway I have been working on a series of self-portrait paintings and drawings of the studio. The painting shown in this article has been my main piece of work, depicting the studio where I have been working. Under Odd’s guidance of using a very limited palette, my technique has improved vastly. I feel this has given my paintings greater harmony in colour, which on my own would have taken years to achieve.

However I continue to use my surrounding as inspiration for my work and have remained true to my own painting style, which I feel is critical for any artist. Artists should have their own identity while still being able to appreciate and learn from the talents and skills of others

I will forever be grateful to Odd for giving such a wonderful opportunity to come out to Norway and learn from him and the other students. Maybe I have taught them a few things as well, that’s if they have understood my Scottish accent!

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