Workshops and teachers

What to expect from our workshops

The aim of the painting and drawing workshops at our painting school is to help all who join us to realise their artistic ambitions. Each individual student, whatever their current level of achievement, will be encouraged to develop and follow his or her own interests, using the medium of their choice. There is no restriction on the kind of painting to be done: landscape, townscape, figure, still life or abstract work will all be equally welcome (for examples, see ‘Student Work’).

In order to give an idea of individual needs, the course begins with students being asked to do a painting or drawing of a subject of their own choice and in their own time. The Workshops Director, Francis Pratt, discusses the outcome with each student individually with a view to learning about their current approach and their hopes for the future.

For the remainder of the session Francis, with the help of his associate teachers (for more on Cathy and Ken, see below), will work with individual students as intensively as necessary, to find ways of helping them to realise their ambitions. When, as is often the case, the interests of students overlap, group sessions will be arranged. These regularly include talks on aspects of colour and figure drawing sessions.

Wide range of the course director’s experience

Francis is unusually well qualified for this inclusive approach not only because of his long experience as a practicing artist and teacher but also as a result of his involvement in scientific research at the University of Stirling, Scotland. In his capacity as an artist, he has delved deeply into most aspects of the use of colour in paintings. As a teacher, after early experience of evening classes, he has taught in Art Schools and University Art Departments at all levels from Foundation to Postgraduate. As a scientist, his focus has been on how people use their eyes when drawing and painting, with particular emphasis on the creative potential of different ways of looking.

The power of the ideas

The ideas that emerged from this research are wide ranging and powerful, and they have proved their value in providing practical help to painting and drawing students of all levels of achievement. Their strength lies in their capacity, first, to provide explanations for universally experienced difficulties and, then, to show how to overcome them. This two-pronged approach has opened up a range of exciting new insights that have enabled students to draw and paint either more accurately or more freely, or both together.

Special knowledge of colour

Of particular value to students has been the comprehensiveness of the knowledge of colour on offer. In addition to extending their understanding of widely taught aspects of colour dynamics, this helps them in various other ways. Of particular importance has been the usefulness the ideas coming from the university research when students seek to imbue their paintings with luminosity, pictorial depth and/or what Cézanne called the “harmony that runs parallel to nature”. Beyond this, the teaching has important messages for those who are interested in interactions between the real picture surface and different kinds of illusory space within it (a major preoccupation of artists since the Impressionists, including Cézanne, Matisse, Bonnard, Pollock and Rothko).

Creativity and meaningful self expression

Francis’s primary motivation for undertaking university research was his desire for a greater understanding of the processes that underpin creativity and meaningful self-expression. His teaching, which is deeply influenced by the research outcomes, is focused on the same goal. The slide-show on the ‘Student Work’ page and the testimonies on the ‘Comments’ page give an idea of how well it has succeeded over the years.

“For years I have seemed unable to express what I wanted, and felt that my painting was stale and unsatisfactory. Your help and guidance have shown me a completely new world. Your ideas on colour have quite transformed my ability to observe and interpret. Painting has become a much more joyous experience.” – Gillian Rix

Associate teacher

Sarah Elliot, MFA, teaches drawing and painting at the University of New Hampshire, USA. She came to Montmiral as a student in 2002 and has been associated with the Painting School of Montmiral ever since. Both her art works and her teaching reflect what she has learnt here. As her website shows, she has explored both figurative and abstract painting and is a master of colour and effects of light.

Slideshow, with images of Francis helping students


More on Francis

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