7 Apr 2015
John Byrne artist
GSA, drawing and John Byrne

A couple of months ago (10 February 2015) artist John Byrne was very outspoken with his views on Glasgow School of Art and its students. Here at Portfolio Oomph we felt strongly that the views of John Byrne weren't a fair or honest reflection of what it really happening at GSA.

So much so, that we wrote a letter in response that was published on 13 February 2015.

Read the full John Byrne article here.

In response to the views of John Byrne on Glasgow School of Art and the students who study there I am saddened by his polarised opinion.

Sweeping statements about students' drawing skills 'not one of them can draw' is both unfair and untrue. Perhaps John Byrne would expand a little on his meaning of drawing skills? To those who don't encounter art and drawing on a regular basis their perception of what drawing can encompass usually means traditional, representational drawing.

However, drawing is a wide reaching medium and it doesn't only refer to the use of drawing materials on paper that represent the artist's subject.  Drawing is a visual response to a subject, a thought, a feeling even and as an artist he should know it's not as cut and dried as this.

Art doesn't stand still, Monet was ground breaking in his time, Surrealists and many other art movements too and to expect all artists to use their drawing skills to demonstrate their worthiness is both unrealistic and unfair.

The notion Byrne discusses of students who want to be rich and famous, with ideas of grandeur I think is more reflective of society today and shows like the X-Factor, Britain's Got Talent have a lot to answer for. This attitude is pervasive in society and if it's happening in the art college this is only natural since it's happening everywhere else too. There are of course students who are quite the opposite to these types.

Byrne, I feel is referring to art that can be assessed by our standards and testing culture. We teach things that are concrete, such as 'does a drawing represent what it is that's being drawn?' Art colleges are teaching, as well as these elements, something more nebulous; the ability to explore, take risks, seek out and essentially play with ideas in search of creativity. And these skills are sought and valued, if identified by both the student and society.

I have no connection or affiliation to GSA or did I study there. However I do tutor and prepare students on all aspects of creating a portfolio for art college. I see a great number of students who can draw beautifully and who go on to gain places at art college.

On visiting degree shows I freely admit that many students work doesn't appeal to me and I believe as art does become more conceptually driven many traditional craft skills are being lost at art college. This is a crime, as how can one know HOW to create art if they don't have a toolkit of skills to make it with? And here I don't only refer to drawing.

This response has been written by artist and founder of Portfolio Oomph Julie Read.

The following day he did attempt to clarify his outspoken comments – John Byrne on GSA, take two: there are lot of great painters who don't get their due


letter to John Byrne


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