New Ways of Seeing:
Scottish Art Schools
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David McClure was born in Lochwinnoch in 1926. He began studying English at the University of Glasgow until War service interrupted this. After the War, he studied Fine Art at Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art transferring to the Drawing and Painting diploma in 1949, where his contemporaries included Elizabeth Blackadder, David Michie and John Houston. A distinguished student, he won many travel scholarships which allowed him to spend significant amounts of time studying and working abroad. He painted in Italy, Sicily and Spain, an experience that informed some of the Mediterranean folk-art influences in his paintings and also his interest in colour.
His triptych (above), Three Part Still Life (1965) was on display at Perth Museum and Art Gallery as part of the exhibition New Ways of Seeing: Scottish Art Schools, 1st August 2020 to 10th January 2021.
When David McClure started his undergraduate diploma in Drawing and Painting in 1947, it was following four years of service as a Bevin Boy, working down the mines of West Lothian. His drawings relating to this experience probably formed part of his entrance portfolio to Edinburgh College of Art, and some are dated to his first year as student there.
The work remaining from his studies at Edinburgh College of Art demonstrates some of the compulsory courses and exercises that students had to do: watercolour and gouache studies of tapestries, a
huge amount of draped and undraped life drawings, and drawings from casts. Aside from the compulsory drawing exercises, McClure began to develop an interest in city landscapes during his undergraduate period, focusing on industrial areas of Edinburgh and scenes from the docks of Leith and Granton. This interest in industry and labour was most likely
influenced by his mining during the war years,
and the year following school working as a
Stevedore at Glasgow Docks.
David McClure was awarded a Travelling Scholarship during his post-diploma year. These sketchbooks show notes and sketches from his travels in Spain. His observations during this period of travel would go on to influence his painting style throughout his career.
Art Schools Today
There is a wider range of art degrees available nowadays in Scotland. As well as the four main art schools (Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art, Duncan of Jordonstone College of Art and Design - Dundee, Gray’s School of Art – Aberdeen), Art and Design Courses are also offered at campuses as part of the University of the Highlands and Islands (with colleges in Moray, Orkney, Shetland, Perth College and North Uist). There are also several independent art schools offering drawing schools, portfolio courses, and short courses, such as Leith School of Art and Hospitalfield, as well as many colleges across Scotland that offer access courses and HNDs.
There are routes such as ACES (Access to Creative Education in Scotland) which is a project for state school students in S4-S6 across the four main art schools in Scotland, aiming to help students learn about the options available at art schools, create a competitive application and develop a strong portfolio of work.
There are still several travelling scholarships available for art students. The Royal Scottish Academy offers the David Michie Travel Award, The John Kinross Scholarship, and the Barns-Graham Travel Award.