Home   Kent   News   Article

Respected painter attacks 'rubbish' art colleges

JOHN WARD: "I only come across the products of art colleges who are pathetically ill-trained for anything at all." Picture: JANE HARDY
JOHN WARD: "I only come across the products of art colleges who are pathetically ill-trained for anything at all." Picture: JANE HARDY

THE Kent Institute of Art and Design has hit back at claims by one of the country's most respected portrait painters that 90 per cent of art students are useless and taught be second rate academics.

John Ward, whose work hangs in royal households, believes the basic skills of draughtsmanship are not practised in college and that students with little or no talent for art are acquiring degrees.

But KIAD spokesman Tracy Ralph says the spirit of the art college is still alive.

Now in his eighties, Mr Ward, who lives in Bilting, spoke out as he prepared for his latest exhibition, John Ward, Friends and Family, which is due to open in Faversham next month.

He said: "The college system is bait for ignorant parents who are assured their children will emerge with a precious degree opening all kinds of glorious prospects. But these days I only come across the products of art colleges who are pathetically ill-trained for anything at all.

"Ninety per cent of art students will be useless. Nine out of the 10 left have a scrap of talent which, if trained, will turn out someone who can earn a living and serve a community.

"Then there is one in a 100 who may have more talent. But a lot of the so-called work being produced is absolute rubbish."

But Tracy Ralph said: "Art and design education has developed over the years and now provides a wealth of direct opportunities for talented individuals to achieve success in creative and cultural industries.

"Unlike general degrees, art and design students are required to complete an intensive one-year foundation course after A-levels as essential preparation for their specialist degree studies.

"That course ensures students experience and develop skills in art and design practice, including drawing and illustration.

"At KIAD, teaching staff are practising artists in their own right with strong links with the creative industries which allows the world of work to be brought into the learning environment."

Mr Ward, who started his career as a fashion illustrator with Vogue, was elected to the Royal Academy in 1956 but resigned in his 80th year in protest at its 'highjacking' by commercial interests.

He added: "The college system is a grave lie which provides useless degrees. Unfortunately, there are no small art schools now were students can learn drawing and illustration skills before developing their own styles and interpretation.

"No one ever asked me what qualifications I had before being given a commission. It seems to me that there is too much talking about art and not enough training in the skills that will lead a young artist to develop their talent and, perhaps one day, earn a living with it."

Ms Ralph replied: "A recent Ofsted inspection report placed KIAD as the highest rated institute of its kind in England. KIAD remains dedicated to providing artists, designers and architects of the future, just as we have done in the past.

"Some of our former students include fashion designer Zandra Rhodes and Karen Millen, leading brand specialist Martin Lambie-Naim, artist Humphrey Ocean and Turner Prize nominee Tracey Emin.

"We would gladly welcome John Ward to the Institute to witness and experience modern art and design education in a specialist environment."

But as the final year students prepared for their art show, two exhibitors admitted that many art students will not find careers selling their work or skills.

Abigail Barnett and Leila Allen, both 23, are about to graduate in fine art but say the course does not focus on technical ability.

Abigail said: "You have to have some talent to get on the course but it is more contemporary and gearing you up for the commercial world."

Leila added: "It is true that not all art students are especially talented and many will not make a living from it.

"I enjoy drawing and it is a bit frustrating that I have been unable to focus on it more, but then other colleges do offer more technical courses if that is the direction you want to take."

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More