The British Figurative Colourist Painter Hugo Grenville has for the past 25 years taught courses that have steadily maintained his reputation as one of the most inspiring, engaging and informed teachers of painting, colour theory and art history in the country. Alongside his independently run art school he has exhibited around the world, having had 14 solo shows including those held at Messum’s on Cork Street and Wally Findlay Galleries in New York and Palm Beach. 2014 will see Hugo teaching in the colourful and jaunty Olhao -a completely unspoilt traditional seaside town situated in the sunny Algarve. I sat down with Hugo to talk specifically about his career as a teacher of painting.
Hugo admiring the streets in Olhao
Lisa: Why do you teach?
Hugo: What I love about teaching is watching a student begin to find their own voice. Having spent 25 years painting myself, and reading and absorbing the ideas and practices of the Masters, it is an inspiring experience to share my enthusiasms with my students, and to find a way of communicating the essence of it all in ways that are practical and accessible.
Lisa: What draws you to Olhao?
Hugo: Quintessential southern European charm: pretty streets, sunshine, colourful markets, sleepy squares with shady benches to sit and wonder. It is small enough that we can walk everywhere, and it has such a wide range of subject matter in a small amount of space: the sea, the harbour, the fish market, the art nouveau ceramic decoration on the front of the merchants’ houses, the flower stalls and the old boys sitting under the tamarind trees and watching the world go by.There are also trips to a neighbouring small picturesque island, with huge sandy beaches and brightly painted houses. And, very importantly, the art school has excellent studio space for those who like to work indoors and away from the subject.
Boats at nearby island Culatra, where students will visit for one day of the course
Lisa: What can students on your courses expect to learn?
Hugo: How to leave aside their current way of doing things, and venture forth in new and exciting ways. This often results in students being able to work much more instinctively and in a manner that allows them to express themselves more personally. Instinct and invention tend to come to the surface, enabling students to paint with much greater freedom and self expression, to begin to develop their own distinctive language and voice.
Lisa: Do you only teach oil painters, or can watercolourists/acrylic painters/pastel painters join the course as well?
Hugo: Anybody can join the course and use any medium – our belief is to teach ideas about self expression, rather than requiring people to work in a specific medium. We are only interested in helping people express themselves in their own way, not in a prescribed way.
Lisa: How experienced do you have to be to book on a Hugo Grenville course, and is there an application process?
Hugo: Anybody can join a course if they are prepared to throw themselves into the joy of painting. It obviously helps if a student has had experience of drawing, but we have had absolute beginners on our courses in the past who have thoroughly enjoyed themselves and learned how to get started as well!
Painting by the harbour at ‘Colour in the Landscape’, Hugo’s Olhao Painting course in 2010
Lisa: Why don’t you do painting demonstrations?
Hugo: I do very occasionally demonstrate when a student is completely stuck but the emphasis is on inviting students to find their own ways of expressing their response to the subject, and absolutely not imitating my ways! All my teaching is about giving students the knowledge and awareness to develop their own language and express their own ideas.
Painter Michael Crowe’s Painting and Easel (photograph taken at Hugo’s last Olhao course in 2010)
Lisa: To what extent can successful painting be ‘taught’?
Hugo: I think it’s like teaching music: in the same way that a piano teacher can’t control the way the keys of the piano are played by a student, nor can a teacher of painting exercise control over the brushstrokes of the student, but what can be communicated is the right philosophical approach, and an understanding of important technical issues so that students who grasp these ideas and have the requisite passion should then be able to paint with a high degree of success.
Studio Hugo Grenville in Olhao (Colour and Light: The Pillars of Painting) will run from April 30th – May 7th 2014. To find out more and to reserve your place please visit http://hugogrenville.com/course_olhao_2014.html
‘View from the Studio, Late Summer’ by Hugo Grenville, 24″ x 48″ Oil on Canvas