Foundation Course to De Laszlo Scholarship: An artist’s experience with London Fine Art Studios

Assorted small clay fired sculptures (ceramics), 2021.

Maddy Gyselynck is an artist based in London. She started formal atelier training at London Fine Art Studios in 2020 having left her career in financial services to pursue her passion. She now works full time as an artist and teaches at the studios.

The De Laszlo Scholarship has allowed me to continue my training at London Fine Art Studios. In this time, ideas about what direction I wanted to take my work in have taken shape. In particular, I have been able to produce a number of complete clay sculptures (portraits and figures), two of which are currently at a foundry being cast into plaster and bronze. I have also been able to spend time experimenting with firing and glazing smaller clay sculptures to make my three dimensional pieces even more unique.

Foundation Course

The foundation course at London Fine Arts was my first introduction into drawing and painting without the use of photographs and grids. Learning comparative measurement has fundamentally changed my practice for the better and, with time and practice, has made my approach to creating art much more direct and based on observation. I am now able to confidently approach almost any subject with the knowledge that I can, in a short time, get a representation of it down on any size or quality of paper or canvas. 

“Vine Tomatoes”, Oil on linen, 10″ x 12″, 2021.

Before & After

Below is a side-by-side comparison of a life drawing from before LFAS, and one drawn since attending the studios. Together, with a much greater understanding of how to render forms, the most obvious difference is the improved accuracy of proportions. Both were done in charcoal in approximately 20 minutes.

Comparative Measurement

The method taught primarily at LFAS is called ‘comparative measurement’. Other ateliers teach other approaches such as ‘sight-size’, but I have found that comparative measurement allows the most flexibility. Once I have placed a top and bottom line to anchor my drawing on the page, to fix any proportional errors I need to ask myself, ‘does it look too wide or narrow for the height that I have?’. The great thing about this method is that it can be applied to almost everything I do – including sculpture, constantly comparing distances and shapes in relation to each other. I now teach this same method to my Foundation class students at LFAS, and hope that they achieve the same sense of liberation from measuring and a reliance on photographs.

One of the great things about the studios is that it caters for those who can only devote a few hours a week, and for those that want to study full-time. This results in an incredible friendly atmosphere and a community that has built up over the years. 

Like any skill, the more hours you can devote to its practice, the quicker you will see improvements, and the deeper your understanding grows.  The scholarship has allowed me to immerse and push myself, an opportunity for which I am extremely grateful.

“Ruby with Mandarins”, Oil on linen, 14″ x 12″, 2022.

Longer Projects

This term I have been attending several long pose projects. The pieces painted in these classes will take shape over many weeks, allowing me to experiment and push many difference aspects of one artwork. Whereas in a quick drawing you might only have the time or materials to focus on proportion and gesture, in a longer project you can get much deeper into composition, storytelling, colour, rendering, details and accents. Techniques such as glazing (adding thin layers oil-rich paints on top of each other over many weeks) are only possible with a lot of time, but create unique patterns of light and colour that can’t necessarily be achieved when painting alla prima (a painting completed in one sitting).

As my confidence in the studio has grown, new techniques have become less intimidating and more exciting in terms of prospects and potential. I am increasingly adventurous with my painting and sculptures now, and although not every artwork I consider successful, I’m much less afraid of failure than I was, and the outcomes are more exciting.

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