Painter and grantee Oliver Stokes-Hughes shares his grantee experience and the impact it has had on his creative practice.

"In April 2017, after several months of careful research and planning, I was successfully awarded a Grant from the Ian Potter Cultural Trust.

The programme I had chosen to embark on was a study tour across the United States from 29 May until 4 September. These dates happened to be Memorial and Labour Day respectively, being the unofficial beginning and end of the United States summer.

My tour began in Los Angeles where I had arranged a studio visit with F. Scott Hess—one of America’s preeminent realist painters, well known for his complex, narrative figurative paintings.

During my visit Scott was working on an epic painting inspired by a fever-induced dream he had while studying at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. In the dream Scott found himself caught between two wormholes that lead into the past and future of art. Within the past were hundreds of years of art history and within the future was a bright blinding glow.

From Los Angeles I travelled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to study with Tony Ryder at his studio school.

Tony Ryder is a well-respected draughtsman, painter, teacher and author who at the age of twenty-two rode his bicycle from Providence, Rhode Island to Santa Fe, New Mexico—a distance of almost 4000 kilometres. Captured by the landscape Tony eventually moved to Santa Fe and in 2007 established The Ryder Studio.

I spent four weeks in Santa Fe studying classical drawing with Tony Ryder at his Studio School. The study was divided into two workshops each running for two weeks. The first workshop focused on figure, the second on portrait.

For the first two hours Tony conducted a group demonstration detailing his technical and philosophical approach to drawing the figure and portrait from life. For the remainder of the day we drew while Tony dedicated significant time to each student, further advancing his or her drawing through individual critiques and demonstrations.

From Santa Fe, I travelled to Longmont, Colorado to visit one of America’s preeminent still life painters, Scott Fraser.

Scott paints from life and throughout the studio Scott had several elaborate sets built or in the process of being built. During my visit Scott was working on a small painting on copper panel depicting two spherical firecrackers. Scott allowed me to sit with him while he painted and explained his process—adding that the larger paintings followed the same principles.

From Colorado I visited several museums before arriving in New York to study at the Grand Central Atelier and School of Visual Arts.

I had first visited New York City in 2008 when I travelled to the United States to study at the State University of New York Oswego, located in upstate New York.

At the Grand Central Atelier I studied, most notably, with Gregory Mortenson. Gregory Mortensen grew up in Utah before studying art at the University of Southern Virginia. Followed by studying with Patrick Devonas and William Whitaker. In 2006 Greg moved to New York to study at the Grand Central Atelier where he graduated four years later. Following this Greg spent an additional two years studying with the founder of Grand Central Atelier, Jacob Collins at his studio.

Portrait Drawing and Painting with Gregory Mortenson spanned two weeks, during which time Greg detailed his philosophical and technical approach to portrait painting. This included group demonstrations, discussions and working patiently with each individual to further their work and understanding the painting of form.

I was last to select my painting position and chose one with a dramatic angle. The first week I focused on drawing the model, with the second week dedicated to painting. I was never going to completely render a portrait in only five days. In spite of the painting not being fully rendered, it captures the model and the workshop perfectly.

In addition to the workshop with Gregory Mortenson, I also participated in a portrait-drawing workshop with Colleen Barry and a sculpture workshop with Charlie Mostow.

Charlie Mostow later asked if I would like to have a portrait sculptured to which I enthusiastically agreed. Working in clay, the sitting lasted four hours with only a short fifteen-minute break half way through, resulting in an amazing experience and sculpture.

My Study Tour was a transformational experience, and I returned to Australia with a very clear vision of how to move forward as a painter.

The time spent in workshops, museums and cultural sites; and with artists Scott Hess and Scott Fraser set a strong foundation of skills and knowledge that have motivated me more than ever.

Currently, I am working on new paintings inspired by my experiences. Once these paintings are completed I hope to exhibit them at awards across the country."