How are bears and art students similar?

Gina Fairley

Winter is a good time to retreat to the studio, and the National Art School is offering intensive courses to fire up your creativity.
How are bears and art students similar?

NAS Winter School; Photo Peter Nolan

How are bears and art students similar? They’ve both been lumbered with the erroneous claim that they hibernate in winter.

The National Art School’s (NAS) Winter School is testament to the debunked myth, with around 200 students expected to enroll in the five-day intensive held in early July.

Recently, NAS was ranked the number one university or college in Australia for student satisfaction, outranking all the blue chip universities. It was also ranked as the leading art school Australia for overall educational experience, holding that spot from last year.


Read: Art School rates above all Australian Universities

Why? Because programs like the Winter School are taught by practicing artists who are also experienced teachers, in a unique studio environment.

‘It is amazing how much the teachers can tease out of you in a short time,’ said Head of Public Programs, Dr Ella Dreyfus. ‘Because they are professional artists themselves, there is a skill level and real-time application of their knowledge that is brought into the studio and shared with students.’

NAS is offering 18 finely tuned courses that promise to keep you indoors and fire up your creativity this winter, whether you are a beginner with a newly discovered passion for visual art, or an experienced artist wanting to deepen your practice.

'I enjoy taking courses at NAS, the space is so inspiring and the teachers are highly skilled and very keen and patient to further extend students’ art making. I find meeting and interacting with other students who are passionate about art fires up my creativity,' said Fiona, a recent Short Course Student.

Photo Peter Morgan; Courtesy the National Art School

Get your creative juices flowing

Embarking on a new creative endeavor is often about making the decision to do something you really want to do. The rest is easy – well, with the help of some experts.

NAS has a reputation for nurturing experimentation and creativity through a broad range of studio disciplines – and that is extended to all students, even those enrolled at a short course level.

'It was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend a week immersed in art learning. It was great to visit the other studios - tempting me to consider doing classes in other disciplines in the future,' said Olga, a recent NAS Short Course student.

Among this year's highlights, NAS alumnus and celebrated ceramicist Juz Kitson is one of the teachers lined up for this year’s Winter School. Her course Uncanny Objects in Clay will push hand-building to a new level, and will draw out students’ individual styles, while also skilling-up their knowledge of various clays and their properties.

Simone Fraser will offer Wheelforming with a Twist; Anita Larkin will show how to bring new life to found objects Constructed Sculptures, and David Horton will teach punters how to wield a welder to make sculptures.

If you are less viscerally inclined, then Glenn Lockitch will unlock the mysteries of Digital Photography Basics, while Sebastian Danta will bring out your inner manga artist in Drawing into Animation, leading students through the 12 Principles of Animation devised by the old masters at Disney Studios and modifying them for the contemporary animation studio.

Dreyfus said one of the highlights of this year’s Winter School is Kim Spooner’s course, Still Life Painting and the Moderns. ‘Kim starts off by walking and talking her class through the Making Modernism exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW, studying the works of Georgia O’Keeffe, Grace Cossington Smith and Margaret Preston, and then creates still life set-ups inspired by these artists in the NAS studio.  

‘It is a really exciting course that not only looks at these artists’ skillful compositions, use of colour, subject matter and their impact on art history, but hones how students can create their own still life studies and paint them to life.’

Dreyfus said she gets many requests for classes that use textiles, so has invited artist Michele Elliot to present Soft Drawing: Cloth and Thread at Winter School.  She will guide students to experiment with techniques such as stitching, knotting, binding and layering, working with cloth instead of paper to draw on.

‘It is a really wonderful, tactile course that doesn’t rely on you needing a huge toolbox of skills. All you need is a passion to explore fabrics and turn them into artworks.

‘I love the way Michele encourages looseness and imperfection through the hand-made, rather than precision and refinement. It is the perfect antidote to our rigid, screen-based contemporary lives,’ said Dreyfus.

To view the full list of courses on offer visit NAS.

Bunker down and focus

Winter is a great time for artists and and those new to artmaking to bunker down in the studio and hone their creative passions.

Whatever one’s motivation, Dreyfus says that ‘discovering your creative side and taking the time to develop a studio practice is the best mid-year refresh you could have to soothe the soul through the winter months.’

Like all NAS short courses, the Winter School is designed for everybody – you can be a graduate returning to upskill or work with a favourite teacher, or you could be a novice potter who has always had a yearning to get your hands dirty with clay.

Dreyfus said that finding the confidence to give it a go is the common thread among most students, regardless of skill level.

She continued: ‘To be able to immerse yourself totally over that week, and leave the world behind you from 9.30am to 4.30pm every day and connect with that other side of yourself is golden.’

Laughing, she added: ‘Now I know why bears like to hide in winter.’

The 2017 Winter School will be held from 3 – 7 July at the National Art School in Darlinghurst. The 5-day intensive will run from 9.30 – 4.30pm daily.

Click here to learn more about courses being offered in the 2017 Winter School.

About the author

Gina Fairley covers the Visual Arts nationally for ArtsHub. Based in Sydney you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.