Andrew’s Blog #2 February 2014
What is wrong with art education in England?
I can’t talk about anywhere else in the world, but I think I have a pretty clear view of what’s not right here. Perhaps you think it’s good where you are, or perhaps you think it’s good in England. If you do, I would like to hear from you.
Life model taking a break
I did this drawing of a life model taking a break, almost exactly 60 years ago when I was 14 and in my second year at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London. I was a full time student from the age of 13 in the Junior Department where we were taught to draw. It was only after we had finished three or four years in the Junior Department that we were allowed to go on to become students in the senior School of Art. We were expected to know how to draw before we started there. And that is the first thing that’s wrong today. Very few of the teachers think drawing is worth teaching. Being original is more important.
The second thing is that students now arrive at art schools needing remedial education. Would anyone accept a student into the first year of any degree course if that student didn’t have the basic tools? Wouldn’t you expect a potential Mathematics student to be able to count?
The third problem is, that because art schools are now degree granting universities, of one sort or another, the students who are qualified for entry have had to conform to a secondary education system that has largely knocked any rebellious non conformity out of them.
Art Schools should be places for the rebel.
And that, in a nutshell, is the fourth, and most important, thing that’s wrong. The rot set in when Art Schools became degree granting. It was all to do with government funding. If an institution was degree granting it received more government money. That’s because the English look down on any educational institution that doesn’t grant degrees. Making art schools degree granting, and part of an academic tradition has lead to a state of affairs where the written content of a body of work has become the primary sign of an art student’s worthiness. The quality of drawing, painting, skill, and craftsmanship are beyond the academic mind to assess critically, and therefore best not considered. Words have become paramount. The concept has taken over and become the end product.
With all best wishes,