The spirit of curiosity: finding a home at London Fine Art Studios - Maria Moorwood
Maria Moorwood (Emmanuel 1997) describes how she forged a career working in the Arts.
As I look back on my time at Cambridge, and with the beauty of hindsight, I see quite clearly the beginnings of the path I have travelled since; the principles of creativity and collaboration, the spirit of curiosity and the importance of rigour have been my guiding lights.
As I look back on my time at Cambridge, and with the beauty of hindsight, I see quite clearly the beginnings of the path I have travelled since; the principles of creativity and collaboration, the spirit of curiosity and the importance of rigour have been my guiding lights. It is therefore no surprise that I now find myself at the heart of yet another dedicated, hard-working and inquisitive community.
The unanticipated move
Sebastian Manhart wrote in his alumni story about the rewards of an unanticipated career move; his candid remarks resonated with me. I left university with no plan but a clear sense of what I enjoyed and thought important. This has led me to work in arts organisations in the UK and abroad. My remit has been national as with Arts Council England; international as at The Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts in Washington DC and regional as with the Centro Colombo Americano de Pereira, Colombia. It has been interdisciplinary and specific. However, none has been so rewarding as my time at London Fine Art Studios.
As it turns out, I am not the only Cambridge graduate drawn to the world of London Fine Art Studios. Ann Witheridge, founder of the school, is an alumna of Christ’s College (along with at least two other students), where she studied History of Art before moving to Florence to train as a fine artist.
There are many more who take time out of their schedules to study the craft of drawing and painting with us. Be they linguists, lawyers, historians, writers or any other profession, they find in us a familiar and invigorating fusion of old and new, a place in which tradition emboldens and empowers modernity.
Learning as process, not product
London Fine Art Studios was established to teach the craft of drawing and painting. As behoves any art atelier, teachers and students work alongside each other, in this way ensuring that fundamental skills are passed from one generation to the next. It demonstrates that learning comes from many different sources – a pupil learns from their peers as well as their teachers and the teachers are, in turn, enriched by their students; above all it speaks to the fact that learning is a process, not a product; infinite, not finite.
This exchange among equals of technique, experience and knowledge is another reminder of my Cambridge days, as is the diversity of our student body. There is no average age or background; no common road travelled, only like-minded individuals with the singular determination to better themselves as artists. For this they receive tuition in working from the cast, on the figure or portrait (the latter always from life models). They can choose to focus on landscape; apply their skills to sculpture or printmaking and attend workshops with artists from abroad.
No two days are the same. I am continually inspired to raise expectations and, accordingly, deliver more opportunities for this exceptionally hardworking and disciplined community of artists. My creative vision is paralleled and fuelled by their rigour. The only difference is that my role necessarily takes the long view, for it is the mission of London Fine Art Studios to ensure that there will always be a place for artists to receive thorough instruction in the craft of drawing and painting. All this in a manner that is pertinent to their objectives, contemporaneous to their professional sphere and cognisant of the traditions from which they are born.
Academic and artistic
The interface between academic and artistic rigour, a vibrant and varied student body and a diverse range of events and collaborations makes London Fine Art Studios unique. We have developed fruitful and highly enjoyable projects with Leighton House Museum, Affordable Art Fair, Central School of Ballet and Dulwich Picture Gallery to name a few.
There have also been interdisciplinary partnerships such as with Poet in the City. Poetry Portraits brought poets and artists together to explore the parallels between the two. Sitters included former Laureate Andrew Motion, Wendy Cope and Jo Shapcott, amongst others. The experience was beautifully captured in a series of short videos and the collection is on view to the public at the Bloomsbury Hotel in the Seamus Heaney Library.
Our programme of events would not be complete without a selection of fascinating talks by leading art historians such as Simon Schama and Alison Smith and cultural figure heads like Sandy Nairne. Andrew Marr has also sat for his portrait live whilst sharing his love of drawing with an avid audience. However a personal favourite has to have been welcoming Dame Fiona Reynolds to the Studios, a gracious and obliging subject and Master of my alma mater, Emmanuel College.
At London Fine Art Studios we believe that artists learn the grammar of painting in the studios so as to develop their freedom of expression and style in conversation with the world around them. As Director of London Fine Art Studios I do my best to support that transition and ensure that their education is rounded and enjoyable, much as I remember my days at Emmanuel College.
More about London Fine Art Studios
Maria has a BA (Hons) in Modern and Medieval Languages. She attended Emmanuel College.
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This article has been written by Maria Moorwood and the opinions expressed are those of the author.