A MASTER'S CLASS
- a former teacher gets his due.
by Jan Patience
There are thousands of adults who owe a debt of gratitude to the guidance of art teachers in Scotland's secondary schools. These teachers were also painting away in their free time, honing and developing their skills while also encouraging several generations of children. Many of their pupils went on to find work in the visual arts business, while others were simply brought out of themselves by the creative atmosphere and people they found in the art rooms.
Having served more than enough time at the coalface, there is now a fleet of former art teachers, set free from the omnipresent target culture of modern education, achieving the recognition they deserve. This elite group includes names such as Robert Kelsey, Willie Rodger, Davy Brown, James Spence and his wife Anda Paterson, Jolomo and Charles MacQueen.
At this point I ought to stand up and be counted as a former pupil of this week's featured artist, Jim Wylie. As principal teacher of art at Kilmarnock Academy, he was a quietly commanding presence throughout my teenage years, instilling in me a love of drawing and painting as well as art history through practical, though never overbearing instruction. My drawing and painting may have fallen by the wayside, but the grounding in appreciating the visual arts that Jim Wylie instilled in me has lingered.
There are several award-winning artists who emerged from his classroom, including Helen Flockhart, Donald Clark, Pam Glennie and Ryan Mutter, but there are hundreds more like me who were quietly inspired during his 33 years in teaching.
What made Jim Wylie a great teacher was the fact that he actually showed you what to do when you were floundering. Pam Glennie, who was at Kilmarnock Academy until 1982, when she left to study at Glasgow School of Art, recalls: “Artists should be able to draw and he is very skilled in drawing. He can't help himself. He has to show you how to do it and looking back on my time in education, and that included art school, Jim was the only person who showed me how to draw “Looking at his work over the years he has tried to get away from form, but he keeps getting pulled back to real hardcore drawing. Everything is exaggerated in his paintings — the colour, texture and form—but there is nothing manic about it.”
Wylie was not to the artistic manner born. He was raised in Priesthill in Glasgow, the son of a nurse and a commercial traveller. He attended Saturday morning art classes at Paisley Art Gallery and Museum as well as residential art courses at Castle Toward near Dunoon, but a career in art never occurred to him.
He recalls: “I remember my art teacher at Shawlands Academy asking at the end of fifth year what I was going to do and I replied I thought I'd be a joiner. He told me in no uncertain terms that I would not —I'd go to art school. And that was that.”
Wylie attended Glasgow School of Art from 1961 to 1964, where he studied under masters such as William Armour, Geoff Squires, Sinclair Thomson, and Duncan Shanks. The grounding he received from them in composition and in colour in the true Glasgow tradition has remained a mainstay of his work.
He left teaching in 2001, aged 55, and his workmanlike, mature approach to his craft has led to an increasing demand for his superbly designed landscapes.
Next week the second major exhibition of his work opens in Braemar, featuring 35 paintings ranging in price from £300 to £3200. For this show he has drawn inspiration from photographs and pastel drawings he made around the village of Braemar and the surrounding countryside. He has also used the clean lines and unusual perspectives gleaned from north-east coastal villages as inspiration for his essays in strokeable texture, strikingly pure colour, carefully plotted perspective and skilfully controlled form.