Robert Jones website

A Memory of Francis

I was at Falmouth School of Art from 1960 - 64 I think I’m right in saying that there were only 65 students there in those days.
My first memories of Francis are of life drawing in the attic studio in Kerris Vean. Francis would come around and sit at your donkey or stand at your easel and you watched while he did a small drawing on the side of your drawing.

The model at the time was Rocky, and I remember seeing Francis’s pencil describe the back of Rocky’s head, her hair pinned up. The line went from her neck, along her shoulder and down her back; but that line was not just drawing the model, but at the same time drawing the space around her, the two parts interlocked like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Francis left you in no doubt that the activity of drawing was a serious thing but at the same time with a sharp witty remark he could have you curled up with laughter.

Of course there were other wonderful tutors there at the time, Lionel Miskin, Dick Platt, Robert Organ, James van Heer, Derek Willshaw, and if you wandered down to the bottom studios there was Peter McCulloch and Ray Exworth. But all of this of course was under the principal Michael Finn whose vision of employing practicing artists as tutors made Falmouth special.
Several of the artists who taught us had studios in the school.

One of the things we students valued was that we were able to be friends with the tutors. I think we all knew we were experiencing something unique at Falmouth then.
There was a wonderfully easy going atmosphere there at that time and of course we were making lifelong friendships.

One evening Francis and Liz invited some of us to their house near Greenbank. It was there I saw some drawings Francis had made at a children’s home he and Liz had worked at. Francis was a conscientious objector, so they worked at this home in Surrey instead of Francis doing National Service. He made wonderful drawings of the children there and Francis talked to me about them while we looked at them.

After a year a lot of the students who started at the same time as me, left to go to colleges elsewhere, many to do Dip AD at other art schools.
There were just three of us who stayed on at Falmouth to do NDD. Sarah Hargreves, John Henderson and me. We had the little studio on the right as you came into the garden through the gates at Kerris Vean.

In the winter of 1963 Francis took a load of us to London in his Atlas van. I remember the snow was exceptional that year, there had been a great blizzard. On Salisbury plain the road had been cut through huge snow drifts that were well above the height of the van. It was tough going but Francis was determined - and succeeded in getting us there.

Francis and Bob would come into our studio and talk to us about our paintings, often taking the mickey out of us, ut with such humour that they would have us in stitches. But apart from the jokes they treated us as fellow artists, and because of that we thought of ourselves as artists. They somehow shared the idea of being creative and painting with us. I remember Francis showing me the work he was doing in his studio. Big thickly painted pictures to do with his family life. There was also a whole series of paintings of Captain Ahab.

After I left Falmouth I taught for a while at Summerhill School in the early 1970s, and following Francis’s example I made drawings of the pupils there. it became my way of teaching, and I was doing my own work in the art room at the same time.

On and off over the years I kept in touch with Francis and Liz. He was always supportive and encouraging, and when I had an exhibition of my work at Truro Museum I remember Francis talked to me about my work, he was particularly kind about the drawings I had done of children, so in some way things had come full circle.

Three years ago Susie and I were involved in putting together an exhibition in London which included some paintings by Francis. While we were organizing this I had a long chat with Francis at his kitchen table. I understood that he had had a small stroke before, but he seemed to be mostly over it and was in good form. It was then that I noticed something which had always intrigued me about Francis, but this was the first time I had really been aware of it. Francis would say something, as ever, something clever and witty. But he would smile as he told you, almost as if he himself was being amused by his own thoughts.

I think - I know, that had I not gone to Falmouth, and had I not met Francis my life would not have been the same, and in saying that, I think that is true not just for myself but for all of us who were fortunate enough to know him.

Robert Jones

 

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Francis Hewlett
Francis Hewlett
Francis Hewlett