Acclaimed artist Chris Gollon leads inspirational masterclass

April 23, 2015

Artistic boys stepped outside their comfort zone and tapped into their emotions during an inspirational masterclass with nationally acclaimed painter, Chris Gollon.

Nearly 20 Year 10 pupils at Monmouth School were lucky enough to spend three hours painting under the tuition of the successful artist on Wednesday, April 22.

Chris, who is currently touring English cathedrals with exhibitions of his powerful religious imagery, kindly volunteered his time to demonstrate how to use acrylics in his unique style.

It is the first time in 10 years the artist has led a class like this.

As a starting point, the boys used Chris’ interpretation of Bathsheba receiving the letter from King David, summoning her to his palace.

Chris loves depicting the dramatic human emotions which his biblical subjects are rife with, and the idea of receiving devastating letters complements the boys’ current study theme of War and Conflict.

Chris, who was born in London in 1953, said: “The boys are learning about the First World War and this seemed appropriate, someone receiving a letter.

“It could be about a husband or a son – the worst one to get was from the home office.

“I tried to get them to make the whole painting really sad.

“We used loose techniques to start with, and then painted the figures.

“I like to see what they come up with, it’s always a total surprise.

“This sounds selfish, but you never know what you can pick up for yourself.

“One is never happy with one’s work.

“I paint on paper a lot – it doesn’t feel as bad as ruining a canvas if what you’re doing flops.”

Chris Gollon masterclass April 2015 (49)

Reflecting on what he was up to at the boys’ age of 14, Chris said: “I was at grammar school in Isleworth, near London.

“It didn’t have a good art department.

“I probably would have been out playing rugby, wishing I was painting.

“It’s not so easy making a living out of it – I was 36 when I decided I didn’t have to do anything else as well.

“I used to do a bit of cooking in a restaurant – I was always doing something creative.

“Even now, most of my friends still teach fulltime.”

Chris’ extraordinary figures start out as a black mass, coming to life as he builds up highlights and colour to create features.

His subjects’ hands are heavily expressive, and add to the mood of his instantly-recognisable work.

“Hopefully the boys learnt how to paint figures and hands,” Chris added.

“Lots of our emotions come out through our hands – they are very important.

“You can tell if someone is nervous by the way they are holding their hands.”

Monmouth School pupil Jak, 18, is starting a foundation art course in Bristol in September, and hopes to become an art teacher.

He was the only sixth former to take part in the masterclass.

“This is a style I’ve never experimented with before,” Jak said.

“I usually stick to the same things, like pencil sketches or really realistic acrylic paintings.

“Going straight in was quite weird for me. I was definitely out of my comfort zone.

“It was easy to work with Chris.

“His instructions were really clear and watching him do it was really cool.”

And Matt Peake, head of art at Monmouth School, said: “For the boys to paint directly like this is really different.

“What was just a black figure suddenly came to life – it was amazing to watch.

“Hopefully the boys have a lot more confidence after today.

“They’ve worked for three hours solidly and been really focused.

“Chris has been speaking to them, telling them quite a few anecdotes and stories.

“They’re really lucky to have had this opportunity.”

For more information on Chris Gollon, and exhibition dates, click here.