Eric (Ricky) Atkinson was born in Hartlepool but for the past thirty years has lived in Ontario. He is recognised as an important Canadian landscape painter, and is in the process of being rediscovered in England. However, his life as an artist is only part of the story. Equally significant is his work as an art educator, stemming from his years as a teacher on the Basic Course at Leeds College of Art in the 1950s and the 1960s. This course, under the leadership of Harry Thubron, is now recognised as one of the most innovative post-Bauhaus art education programmes in Europe. Its premise was not the transfer of skill but the discovery of new aesthetic territories through freedoms of self-expression. David Lewis, architect, writer and teacher, was himself a student on the Basic Course, and those involved in the studios included Sir Herbert Read, Victor Pasmore, Sir Terry Frost, Alan Davie, Hubert Dalwood, Norbert Lynton, Tom Hudson, Maurice de Sausmarez and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham among others. When Thubron left, Ricky became head of the programme, and oversaw its absorption into the Leeds Polytechnic.
In 1969 he was recruited to create the innovative art education programme at Fanshawe College in Ontario, where he succeeded in integrating television, film, music and advertising into the Basic Course. He expanded the art and applied art studios by adding recording studios started by Tom Lodge on a Moog Synthesiser, vacuum forming in plastics with Robin Hobbs in the Fine Art Machine Shop, and kinetic sculpture with Eric McLuhan and Michael Hayden. The volume takes an unusual form. Instead of essays, it is a spirited exchange of letters between Ricky Atkinson and David Lewis, and an array of English, Canadian and American artists and teacher friends which offers a fascinating insight into the creative processes at the heart of art education over the past forty years. It is generously illustrated with reproductions of work by Ricky Atkinson (and other comparative material), and is an indispensable source book for all those concerned with the ferment in art education on both sides of the Atlantic. A limited edition of 20 copies is also available, which includes an original drawing specially prepared and signed by the artist.
Published in Association with The Volunteer Committee of the London Regional Art and Historical Museums, Canada.