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 embarking upon his new vocation, 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, this unusually knowledgeable man had introduced him to some deceptively simple ideas about colour in painting that were to set him up for life. He was later to learn that these were based on a deep study of art history, with particular reference to the discoveries and practice of Seurat, Cezanne and Bonnard. Furthermore, due to his ongoing efforts to test the Professor’s theories and to understand why they worked so well, questions emerged that eventually led to his becoming a scientist for a number of years. He was able to make this temporary detour in his career because his three years as an artist at the University of Stirling opened up an opportunity to become a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Psychology and to engage in fundamental research into how artists use their eyes when painting and drawing. The exiting outcome of his 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 his 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. Two particularly important influences on his work were the above mentioned Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, under whom he studied for four years and Michael Kidner who was one of his tutors at Art School, and who was later to become a lifelong friend.
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 (for details see below), especially for his knowledge of colour. He has held two three-year fellowships at the University of Stirling: first as the Tom 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 of the subjects covered. Two of them concern the practice of drawing and painting, showing how widely taught artistic practices can be given new life in the light of ideas coming both from a combination of new scientific research and from 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 open up new possibilities in all domains of activity.
Comments on preliminary versions of the books written by the Course Director
- 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:
“I REALLY LIKED it … I particularly liked the style – not mathematical, but grounded in a quantitative way. You asked me particularly about the chapter on the ‘colour constancy algorithm’: it’s good. Technically, I think you’ve done a good job.” Professor Leslie S. Smith, Department of Computing Science and Mathematics, University of Stirling, Scotland.
- 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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
Click here to access the excerpts from these books that will appear on the Post page on an occasional basis
Click here for press and student comments on the teaching at the Painting School.
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.
Joan Zuckerman Painting School in Norfolk, Course Director, 1999-2011.
CURRENT TEACHING POSITION:
Director of the Painting School of Montmiral, Castelnau de Montmiral, Tarn, France 1988-present
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
(1) Art Schools:
1972-1999. Over the years, as a Visiting Lecturer, I have intermittently given talks, made studio visits and organised colour courses at various Art Schools & Art Departments. Such visited include: The Royal Academy Schools; Reading University (Post-Graduate level); Newcastle Polytechnic; Wimbledon School of Art (Foundation, Degree and Post Graduate 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.
While at the University of Stirling, I contributed to the teaching in the Psychology Department on many occasions, giving lectures on colour and drawing skills, as well as participating in student research projects. I also founded a Figure drawing group for University members, which I supervised for most of the time I was at Stirling.
SELECTED EXHIBITIONS OF PAINTINGS
1974, Lucy Milton Gallery, London (three person show).
1977, Royal College of Art, London (in association with a Colour Group of Great Britain Symposium) (two person show).
1977, MacRobert Gallery, Stirling (one-person show).
1978, Arts Council of Scotland Gallery, Charlotte Square (recent acquisitions)
1978, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow (in association with a Colour Group of Scotland Symposium) (one-person show).
1978, Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh (one-person show).
1979, Talbot Rice Arts Centre, Edinburgh (three person show).
1983, Egstrom Gallery, Stockholm (four person show entitled “Four British Concrete Artists”). This exhibition was also shown at:
-1983, Norskoping Museum, Norskoping.
-1984, Kunsthalle, Malmo.
1991, Centre Culturel d’Albigeois, Albi. (one-person show)
1996, Tour de Rondes, Lavaur (one-person show)
1999, Musée Jean Jaures, Castres (selected Tarn region artists)
1999, Château de Linardié, Senouillac, Tarn (four person show)
2005, Château de Linardié, Senouillac, Tarn (one-person retrospective of abstract work)
In addition Annely Juda Fine Art, London took my work to various art fairs in Europe, for example, at Bologna and Basel.
SSRC for the work on graphic skills at the University of Stirling (1980)
The Arts council of Scotland, 1983, for working on a painting project.
The Arts council of Scotland
MULTI MEDIA EVENTS
“The Brick Event”, on campus at the University of Stirling and in the MacRobert Art Gallery, University of Stirling. 1976. This used sound analogies and a variety of visuals to introduce contemporary art ideas to a wider public.
“The ‘L’ shaped word sandwich”, the MacRobert Art Gallery, University of Stirling. 1976. A melange of words, sound, dance and performance used as a means of extending people’s ideas relating to the possibilities of poetic expression.
“Phenomenon”: a multi media exhibition sponsored by Stirling District Council illustrating the work of the University of Stirling Vision Group. The Tollbooth, Stirling. 1987. On display were computers learning to “see” light, colours and shapes, as well as a complex interactive installation representing brain function in an artistic way, using two way mirrors, sound sensitive lights and especially composed “neuron music”.
Law, R., 1980, The horse in West African history. O.U.P. (for the international African Institute).
Phillips, W.A., Hobbs, S.B. and Pratt, F.R., 1978, “Intellectual Realism in Children’s’ drawings of Cubes”. Cognition, Vol. 6, pages 15-33.
Pratt, Francis, 1979, “The contribution of colour to three dimensional ambiguities in paintings and drawings.” Perception, Vol. 8, pages 157-173.
Pratt, Francis and MacDonald, Ranald R, 1981, “Effects of distance on heterochromatic matching.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, Vol. 50, pages 1127-1138.
MacDonald, Ranald R., Pratt, Francis and Beattie, Martin E., 1982, “Viewing Distance and visual angle effects on metameric matches.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, Vol. 54, pages 119-126.
Pratt, F.R., 1983, “Intellectual Realism in children’s’ and adults’ copies of cubes and straight lines.” In, “Acquisition of Symbolic Skills.” Eds.: Rogers, D.R. and Sloboda, J.A., Plenum Press.
Pratt, Francis, 1984, “A theoretical framework for thinking about depiction.” In, “Cognitive Processes in the Perception of Art”. Eds.: Crozier, W.R. and Chapman, A.J., North-Holland Press.
Pratt, Francis, 1985, “A perspective on traditional artistic practices.” In, “Visual Order. Studies in the Development of Representational Skills”. Eds.: Freeman, N.H. and Cox, M. Cambridge University Press.
Pratt, Francis, 1984, “Systems and the work of Michael Kidner.” In: “Michael Kidner: Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures”: catalogue to the exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London. Arts Council of Great Britain
Pratt, Francis, 1985, “Systems and the Work of Michael Kidner.” In: “Michael Kidner”: catalogue to the exhibition shown at: Museum Sztuki, Lodz; Galleria Krystofory, Krakow; and, Museum Norodow, Wroclaw.
Pratt, Francis, 1985, “Drawing Conclusions.” A review of/ Peter van Somers, 1984, “Drawing and Cognition”, Cambridge University Press. In: New Scientist. Vol. 106 (1452) pp. 40-41.
Francis Pratt, 1990, “Why only eight trees?” The Artist, Vol. 105 No 2, pages 24-28.
Francis Pratt, 1990, “I Simply draw what I see” (part one).” The Artist, Vol. 105 No 8, pages 29-32.
Francis Pratt, 1990, “I simply draw what I see” (Part two). The Artist, Vol. 105 No 9, pages 28-31.
Francis Pratt, 1991, “What is Art?” The Artist, Vol. 106 No 5, pages 32-38.
Francis Pratt, 1991, “What is round, red, and squishy?” A letter in, The Independent, May 27th.
Francis Pratt, 1992,”Enfin, je ne sais plus dessiner” Toulouse-Lautrec, Le Premier Peintre Moderne. La Revue du Tarn, Troisième Série, No 145, pages 37-55.
Francis Pratt, 1994, “To know or not to know how” A letter in, Modern Painters, Vol. 7 No1.
Francis Pratt, 1996, “Accuracy in drawing” (1) The Artist’s and Illustrator’s Magazine 1996
Francis Pratt, 1996, “Accuracy in drawing” (2) The Artist’s and Illustrator’s Magazine, March 1996
Francis Pratt, 1996, “Do Artists need brains?” The Artist, Vol. 111 No 8, page 7.
Francis Pratt, 1999, “Wheels within wheels”. The Artist’s and Illustrator’s Magazine 1999
Francis Pratt, 1999, “The blue virus”. The Artist, Vol. 114 No 10, page 7.
Francis Pratt, 2007, “Michael Kidner the man” and “Michael Kidner -The big bang, chaos and the butterfly”, in Michael Kidner, Flowers, London (a monograph published on the occasion of “No goals in a quicksand” a retrospective exhibition to celebrate the artist’s 90th birthday at Flowers East Gallery, London).
PAPERS PRESENTED AT INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES
Intellectual realism in children’s and adults’ copies of cubes and straight lines. NATO Conference on “Symbolic Skills”. Keele, 1982.
The influence of children’s art on adult artists’. Conference on “Psychology in the Arts”. Cardiff, 1983.
OTHER PAPERS PRESENTED (A SELECTION)
Royal College of Art. Colour Group of Great Britain symposium on “Colour in Art, Design, Science and Industry”. 1977
University of Strathclyde. Colour Group of Scotland symposium on “Colour in Art and Design”. 1978.
M.R.C. Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge, 1980.
University of Oxford, Department of Psychology, 1980.
University of Edinburgh, Department of Psychology, 1982.
University of Stirling, Department of Psychology, on many topics – drawing skills, motor skills, colour, and eye/brain function – on many occasions between 1976 and 1986.
In 2000 I was instrumental in founding a small software company called “Caladrius Co”. dedicated to using knowledge of the functional principles underpinning eye/brain achievements in the development of image-manipulation software. I remained involved as a consultant until 2011. In this year, the company (by now named Heligon) was bought by IT Lab. Its main and enduring product, a masking tool named “Fluid Mask”, is now marketed by Virtus Tech. My role was to suggest ways in which eye/brain systems’ solutions could be applied to computer software solutions.