Catholic artist James Gillick has begun a formal scheme of apprenticeships at his studio in England. He will take on 5 people per year and is even building an extension to his studio in Louth, Lincolnshire in order to house his students. James works in the baroque style and sells through one of the leading galleries in London at top prices. He sell as an artist of both sacred and mundane subjects. I have known James for some years now and he has always spoken to me about how he feels that artists don't seem to be aware beyond the basic skills of drawing and painting is his understanding of his market and that he wanted to be able to help people who wished to do this. For example, when he spoke to the students at Maryvale he would always play down the image of the sensitive artistic temperament. Rather, he likened what he did to the job of a bricklayer: 'A bricky gets paid on the number of bricks he lays,' said James. 'Similarly the artist gets paid for each painting he paints. If I am going to support my family, I must be able to paint quickly and to highest standard so that I have enough to sell. Then I have to find someone who is going to buy my paintings. If I don't do that we starve or I get job doing something else. I don't have the time to get precious about it.'
How he is helping directly by offering training and advice.
He is looking for young people who want to, in his words, 'spend the next 50 years' being an artist. They will have to pay small up-front fee to cover room, board and materials (amounting to approximately $120 per week) but once they get going they will be paid for assisting him in the preparation of his canvasses and materials, preparatory painting work and assisting him in his business including liaising with his clients and galleries and book-keeping. By the end of the year they will be able to recoup this initial outlay through what they are paid for this work. Through working with him students will learn the life skills of being artist and be in a position to set up as sole traders. James sees this as much about forming the person to lead a hard-working, disciplined (and frugal) lifestyle as well as teaching them how to creating paintings. The will be pushed hard during this year. Artistically, depending on how experienced they were when they arrived, students can expect to be at a level where they can contemplate selling, or at the very least be in a position to develop their own work without being dependant upon spending years at an atelier in Florence. Some will probably stay and work with him longer than the year, but there are no guarantees here.
Interestingly James, like my icon own teacher iconographer Aidan Hart, is largely self-taught. Both were able to do this by studying in such a way that they discerned at a deep level the principles behind the traditions they were working in. The training I was given by Aidan was not so much about how to paint icons (although clearly it did involve some of this) but more about passing on what I needed to understand so that I could train myself. This is what Jim will be doing with his students.
This is an exciting development and I recommend young artists to consider this. He is looking for people who have the right qualities - self-discipline and preparedness to deal with the business side of being a succesful artist - as much as artistic talent.
Now that I am in the United States, I asked him about the possibility of training students from abroad. Jim said that he was certainly open to this - he was providing basic accomodation, so as long as they were prepared to travel to England he would take them on. He did note that the individuals would have to have to adapt the business elements to American situation once they left (for example, the regulatory aspects of establishing a business).
Enquiries should be made through his website www.gillick-artist.com/