Story in brief
The story of the Course Director is that of a graduate in history who decided to become an artist and who, very soon after, had the great fortune to come across Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, the Polish artist and teacher. It was a life changing encounter. Within half an hour, he had introduced me to some deceptively simple ideas about colour in painting that were to set me up for life. I was later to learn that these were based on a deep study of art history, with particular reference to the discoveries of Seurat, Cezanne and Bonnard. Furthermore, due to my efforts in the next years to test his theories and to understand why they worked so well, questions emerged that were to lead to my research at the University of Stirling. The exiting outcome of my experiments was a host of new insights relating both to making art works and to the experience of looking at them. It was the desire to share these that led to my decision to set up the Painting School of Montmiral and to the many happy years of creative interactions with students that followed.
The Course Director, Francis Pratt, though mainly a painter, has done much else besides. He has an honours degree in Modern History from the University of Oxford, a Diploma in Art and Design from the Bath Academy of Art and an Art Teacher’s Diploma from the University of Bristol School of Education. An important influence on his work has been the Polish painter Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, under whom he studied and who provided a living link with the European colourist tradition.
Francis has taught figure drawing and painting in various Institutes of Further Education and, as a Visiting Lecturer, has been employed at all levels in Art Schools, especially for his knowledge of colour. He has held two three-year fellowships at the University of Stirling: first as the Cottrell Memorial Fellow, researching a new approach to the use of colour in paintings; and then, as a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Psychology, studying drawing skills. Subsequently, he was a prime mover in creation of the University of Stirling Vision Group, an interdisciplinary body working on computer-based image interpretation. He has given talks concerning various aspects of drawing skills and colour perception both at international conferences and to Psychology Departments in Britain (including Edinburgh, Cambridge and Oxford). His ideas on these subjects have been published in various scholarly journals and books.
More recently Francis has been working on four interrelated books, the aim of which aim is to provide the most comprehensive treatment available on the subjects covered. Two of them concern the practice of drawing and painting, showing how established artistic practices can be built upon in the light of a ideas coming from a combination of new scientific research and well established but sadly neglected artistic traditions. A third book describes the scientific research itself and how it led to an in-depth, all-level analysis of the factors that underpin the creative use of analytic looking skills. The fourth book delves into the subject of creativity. It shows how the ideas put forward in the other three books can be built upon and help it flourish in all domains of activity.
Comments on the Course Director’s books
- The science book:
“I find it is well structured, the main points are clearly reinforced. I find the style appropriate for both specialist and general reader. … It truly is a tour de force. I am impressed”. Dr. Ursula Weiss, Senior Editor for Nature – International Weekly Journal of Science:
“It is clearly the fruit of a lifetime’s learning, and of very deep thought. There is so much in this book that many people could find things of considerable value in it. As an experimental psychologist I could easily find useful things to cite in it.” Professor Bill Phillips, Department of Psychology, University of Stirling, Scotland. Since June 2005, a Fellow of the Frankfurt Institute of Advanced Studies:
- The practical books
“This is a remarkably useful book. Full of surprises as it reveals an astonishing amount of little known scientific research about how we perceive or misperceive the world around us. You overturn currently fashionable methods of teaching, while giving concrete, detailed lessons in how to observe, measure and feel your way into a scene or subject. Although exacting and requiring great concentration, this approach leads to some surprising discoveries of form and space, and creates an intimacy with the subject that becomes the springboard for one’s own creativity. A cogent book, lucidly written, and you are invited to not only read but practice.” Maude Dorr, Journalist, photographer and artist.
“In his book on drawing, Francis Pratt takes us on a journey of creative discovery by exploring relationships among accuracy and expression, feeling and knowing, and art and science to name but a few. Examining not only the chef d’oeuvres of master draftsmen from the Renaissance to Modernity, but also the critical methods of historical and contemporary drawing teachers, the author forges a new path toward realising one’s creative ambitions through a detailed, concentrated and compelling drawing lesson that will benefit novice and seasoned artists alike. The book is good; it’s better than good: it’s IMPORTANT.” Dr. Kenneth Marunowski, Practising artist and University Lecturer.
“I am particularly impressed by the way that your book makes learning how to draw from observation, and subsequently to draw in any way, a very accessible skill and form of expression for absolutely anyone. It does a great service by emphasizing the importance of having a solid foundation and by encouraging students to take their time in the beginning, be rigorous in their approach, to persevere and to use their mistakes as an invaluable learning tool. I very much appreciate how the focus is on learning and deep understanding at every stage, rather than on ‘slick-tricks’ to get a temporary desired and often appreciated ‘look’, but ones which eventually leave both the drawer and viewers bored. This is a phenomenon that happens all too often among many artists. When the learning stops, so does the ‘life’ of what they do.” Sarah Elliott, Art Teacher, Concordia International School Shanghai.
“These writings are a highly dense and tightly argued body of knowledge, which are especially valuable and unusual because of both their scope and their multidisciplinary expertise. I suspect that in their depth and in their bridging of art and science they may well be unique. Their scope goes from analysis of the deeply philosophical; to explorations of the nature of creativity; to practical implication of this exploration all backed up by scientific studies. They are also unusual in writing on creative subjects, in that conclusions built on proof are offered, so that firm conclusions are arrived at.” Mark Gibbs, Practicing Artist who was originally trained as a scientist.
“Reading your book has been quite a revelation – especially the chapters on CLAM, the acquisition of memory and how you structure a drawing lesson. You have distilled the science so that, even after doing your course 3 times and working with other teachers over the years, I found the logic behind your teaching suddenly falling into place. Recommended reading for anyone wanting to understand their own progress in drawing. It’s just brilliant.” Frances Meadows, Amateur artist who runs a legal translations business.
“I was so happy to hear about the book – that wonderful book. I used to read it through the night, I remember. And still have it in my mind amazingly often. I would love to read it again, and delight in the idea that it will be, hopefully, out and available.” Ruth Nevo, Formerly Professor of English Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, at present a painter, and member of the Israel Association of Painters and Sculptors.
Magdalen College, University of Oxford (1959-1962). Honours degree in Modern History.
Academic Community of the Wilno University in London (1963-1967). Diploma in Painting.
Bath Academy of Art (1967-1970). Dip AD (Painting).
Bristol University School of Education (1970-71). ATD.
Isleworth Polytechnic: part-time Lecturer in figure drawing and Painting, 1964-1967.
Chippenham College of Further Education: part-time Lecturer in figure drawing, 1972-1974.
Visiting Lecturer: The Royal Academy Schools; Reading University (Postgraduate level); Newcastle Polytechnic; Wimbledon School of Art (Foundation, Degree and Postgraduate levels); Goldsmith’s College; Edinburgh College of Art; Kingston Polytechnic; Gray’s School of Art; Bath Academy of Art; Byam Shaw School of Arts and Crafts.
Painting School of Montmiral, Course Director: 1987-present.
Joan Zuckerman Painting School in Norfolk, Course Director, 1999-2011.
The University of Stirling: Tom Cottrell Memorial Fellowship (painting), 1975-1978.
The University of Stirling: S.S.R.C. Senior Research Fellowship (graphic skills), 1979-1982.